Hospital–Borne Illnesses

C–diff, MRSA, VRE, VAP, and Surgical Site Infections Can Be Trated With Antibiotics

Clostridium Difficile (C–diff)

Clostridium Difficile (also known as C–diff) is a germ that can cause diarreah. Most cases occur in patients taking antibiotics. The elderly and people with certain medical problems have the greatest chance of getting C–diff.

C–diff spores can live outside the human body for a very long time and may be found on things in the environment such as bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment. C–diff infection can be spread from person–to–person on contaminated equipment and on the hands of doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers, and visitors.

Antibiotics can be used to treat C–diff. In some severe cases, a person may have to have surgery to remove the infected part of the intestines. This surgery is necessary for only one to two out of 100 persons with C–diff.

To help prevent C–diff. infections:

  • Make sure all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol–based hand rub before and after caring for you.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.
  • Be sure to clean your own hands often, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.

Methicillan–Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph) is a very common germ that about one out of every three people have on their skin or in their nose. This germ doesn't cause any problems for most people who have it on their skin. But sometimes it can cause serious infections such as skin or wound infections, pneumonia, or infections of the blood.

Antibiotics are given to kill Staph germs when they cause infectons. However, some Staph are resistant, meaning thay cannot be killed by some antibiotics. Methicillan–Resistant Stapylococcus Aureum (MRSA) is a type of Staph that is resistant to some of the antibiotics that are often used to treat Staph infections.

In the hospital, people who are more likely to get an MRSA infection are those who:

  • have other health conditions making them sick
  • have been in the hosital or nursing home
  • have been treated with antibiotics

People who are healthy and have not been in the hospital or nursing home can also get MRSA infections. Some patients with MRSA abscesses may need surgery to drain the infection.  

Vancomycin–Resistant Enterococcus (VRE)

The enterococcus is a germ or bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract or the female genital tract. Most of the time the enterococcus doesn't cause a problem. Occasionally, however, the enterococcus can cause an infection of the urinary tract, the bloodstream, or skin wounds.

Vancomycin is an antibiotic that can be used to treat those infections. However, some enterococcus germs are no longer killed by vancomycin and are known as vancomycin–resistant enterococcus—or VRE. These germs are often resistant to many antibiotics in addition to vancomycin.

The following people are at increased risk of becoming infected with VRE:

  • People who have been treated with vancomycin or other antibiotics for long periods of time.
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as patients in intensive care units or in cancer or transplant wards.
  • People who have undergone surgical procedures, such as abdominal or chest surgeery.
  • People with medical devices, such as urinary catheters or intravenous (I.V.) cathters that stay in for some time.

Most VRE infections can be treated with antibiotics other than vancomycin. Laboratory testing can help healthcare providers determine which antibiotics that will work.

Ventilator–Associated Pneumonia (VAP)

A "pneumonia" is an infection of the lungs. A "ventilator" is a machine that helps a person breathe through a tube. The tube can be placed in a patient's mouth, nose, or through a hole in the neck. The tube is connected to a ventilator. A ventilator–associated pneumonia—or VAP—is a lung infection or pneumonia that develops in a person who is on a ventilator.

VAP can be a very serious infection. Most of the time, these infections can be treated by antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics depends on which specific germs are causing the infection.

Surgical Site Infections (SSI)

A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Most patients who have surgery do not develop an infection. However, infections develop in one to three out of every 100 patients who have surgery.

Some of the common symptoms of a surgical site infection are:

  • redness and pain around the area where you had surgery
  • drainage of cloudy liquid from your surgical wound
  • fever

Tell your doctor about other medical problems you might have. Health problems such as allergies, diabetes, and obesity could affect your surgery and treatment.  

Most surgical site infections can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic given to you depends on which bacteria (germs) causing the infection. Sometimes patients with SSIs need another surgery to treat the infection.

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