Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus Faecium (VRE) is an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. It often attacks open wounds, blood, and the urinary tract and is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, equipment, or person to person. It only spreads through physical contact and is not passed by coughing or sneezing. It is most frequently contracted within a hospital and is currently responsible for around 10% of hospital infections.

Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus faecium (VRE) is a bacterium that generally infects the blood, urinary tract and wounds, and is a significant cause of serious illness and fatality in hospitals across the nation. It is often referred to as a “super germ,” and was originally classified in the 1930s as a streptococci strand but given its own classification in 1984 after it was determined to be a separate bacterium. It is the second-leading cause of hospital-acquired infections behind E. coli.

VRE is believed to be responsible for about 10 percent of all hospital infections, and is especially dangerous to patients with compromised immune systems. The bacteria cannot be controlled with antibiotics. This is the main reason for alarm among doctors – the bacterium’s resistance to antibiotics such as penicillin and vancomycin. Vancomycin has been labeled the “antibiotic of last resort” because of its strength. The rate of infection of VRE has swelled in the years since its initial classification, yet doctors are currently making strides against the harmful bacterium.

One can be exposed to VRE by coming in contact with a contaminated object or person, or by eating contaminated food. The most likely place to be infected with a VRE infection is in a hospital. Those who are admitted into intensive care unit (ICU) rooms that were once occupied by patients with antibiotic-resistant bacteria are at an increased risk of developing severe infections, according to the results of a new U.S. study.

VRE can cultivate from hospital equipment, doorknobs and bedrails. It has also been cultured on the hands of hospital personnel. Anyone who frequents hospitals should be considered at risk for carrying VRE.

Symptoms of a VRE infection can be hard to detect at first, because they mimic other, more common diseases. Symptoms also vary depending on where the infection is in the body. If VRE is causing a wound infection, that area of your skin may be red or tender. If one has a urinary tract infection, you may have back pain, a burning sensation when you urinate, or a need to urinate more often than usual. Other symptoms include diarrhea, weakness, fever and chills.

Who Is at Risk of Infection?

Anyone inside a hospital is at risk of infection. The likelihood of infection increases if: 

  • you have been treated with antibiotics for extended periods of time
  • you have been hospitalized 
  • during hospitalization, you had a catheter or other medical device inserted
  • you have undergone a surgical procedure 
  • you have a weakened immune system

What Are the Symptoms of a VRE Infection?

Symptoms differ depending on the type of VRE infection, but generally, they can be broken down into the following three categories: 

Surgical Wound or Catheter Infections

  • soreness or swelling around the wound
  • irritated or red skin around the wound
  • fluid leakage

Urinary Tract Infections

  • fatigue
  • pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • atypical urine (dark, bloody, cloudy, etc.)
  • pain while urinating
  • frequent urge to urinate

Bloodstream Infections

  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fever or chills
  • body aches 
  • rapid pulse
  • decreased urination

How Are VRE Infections Treated?

Some people are carriers of VRE without ever experiencing symptoms. Most often, VRE must be treated with antibiotics, but VRE is resistant to both vancomycin and penicillin. 

VRE infections can be exceptionally severe due to their resistance to antibiotics and high mortality rate. If you develop an infection, you may be isolated within the hospital, and staff should use extra precautions to avoid further contamination of the hospital.

This “superbug” is generally acquired while in a hospital and can spread quickly when proper hygiene and sanitation policies and procedures are not uniformly followed by hospital staff. Because of this, many VRE infections can stem from what can be considered malpractice or below the acceptable standards of medical care. In those instances, you or your loved one who suffered from VRE may be entitled to compensation.

Get the Care and Justice You and Your Loved One Deserve

If you or a loved one suffered a VRE infection or hospital-borne infection, it might be best to consult an attorney. For more than 40 years, the law firm of Brown & Crouppen has been helping the victims of medical malpractice get the justice they deserve. Our attorneys will work diligently to answer your questions and help you recover money for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering caused by a VRE infection.

Every day, Brown & Crouppen fights for the rights of people like you, who may have been the victim of medical malpractice.

Have You Become Ill or Suffered Due to a VRE Infection or Hospital-Borne Infection? Contact the Lawyers of Brown & Crouppen.

Getting started is easy. You can call us at 800-536-4357 for a free consultation, or tell us about your case with our Free Case Review form. And remember, there’s no upfront cost to you — if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.

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