If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with a multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria, the following information can help you better understand resistant bacteria and what to do to prevent spreading these bacteria to others.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are germs that have developed resistance to certain antibiotics that normally kill the bacteria. Infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria can be harder to treat.
Two common types of bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics are Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Enterococcus. Staph lives on your skin and Enterococcus lives in your intestines. When these bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics most commonly used to treat infection, they are referred to as either MRSA (mer-sah), which is short for methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, or VRE, which is short for vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus. Methicillin and vancomycin are the two antibiotics that are used to determine whether these bacteria are resistant to multiple antibiotics.
How did I get an antibiotic resistant strain of the bacteria?
Although we don't know exactly how people develop resistant bacteria, there are several possible causes. You can get resistant bacteria:
Will I always have them?
Many people can be treated with different antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. Other people can be treated for the infection but will continue to carry the bacteria even though it doesn't make them sick. When you carry the bacteria but are not sick, you are referred to as being colonized.
People with chronic wounds, tubes, or chronic illnesses are more likely to be colonized. When people develop symptoms that make them sick, their condition is referred to as an acute infection. Your doctor may recommend additional cultures to find out if you have developed colonization.
What can I expect from my doctor and health care workers?
Your doctor, nurse, and other health care workers will wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for you. They will wear gloves when handling or touching any body fluid or wound. They may wear gowns to prevent getting the bacteria on their clothing. If you are coughing, your doctor or nurse may need to wear a mask while treating you.
If you are admitted to the hospital, a Special Precautions instruction card will be placed outside your door to alert staff that they need to use extra precaution while caring for you.
You may remind health care workers that they need to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for you.
Can my family and friends visit me while I'm in the hospital?
There is no reason to restrict your visitors. When visiting you in the hospital, your visitors may use the same protection as hospital staff. They will also be instructed to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after being with you or providing any care for you. Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will review additional home instructions with you and your caregiver.
What extra precautions should I take?
It is important to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria to other people. It is especially important to protect anyone who is frail, elderly, or has a chronic medical condition since they are more likely to develop an acute infection.
There are several things you can do to prevent the spread or transmission of these bacteria. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. Always wash your hands with soap and water:
Tell your caregivers that you carry antibiotic resistant bacteria so they can take the precautions necessary to prevent getting the bacteria and spreading it to others.
You can find several environmental disinfectant cleaners at the grocery store, such as Lysol, ammonia, or Clorox wipes. Read the label on the product. If it says "disinfectant," it will kill bacteria.
You can also make your own disinfectant solution: Mix 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Use bleach with care: it permanently stains clothing and other materials such as towels and carpeting. Never mix bleach with household disinfectants that may contain ammonia — it will produce deadly chlorine gas.
Here are some additional tips to follow at home. Ask your nurse or doctor if you have any questions.
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water:
You can use an over-the-counter alcohol-based hand sanitizer when your hands are not visibly soiled or dirty.
If you have an infection or are colonized, you can use an antibacterial soap, like chlorhexidine gluconate, to reduce the bacteria on your skin. Chlorhexidine is available over-the-counter at most drug stores. Use it for one to two weeks or as directed by your doctor.
If your personal laundry is soiled with body fluids, you should wash it separately in detergent and bleach. Use 1 cup of bleach for each load of laundry. Any personal laundry that is not soiled with body fluids can be washed with the rest of your family's laundry.
Put all disposable waste, like dressings and bandages, into plastic bags and seal the bags securely. These bags can be thrown out with your regular garbage.
MRSA and VRE can live for weeks or months on unclean surfaces.
MRSA refers to bacteria that is difficult to treat because it's resistant to commonly used antibiotics.
Print this brochure for an easy-to-use reference on how to control the spread of MRSA to your family, how to take care of an active infection, and when to see your doctor.
Living With MRSA (PDF)
You also may get the brochure from your Group Health doctor or contact the Resource Line for a copy.
The brochure is a joint effort of Group Health and public health agencies.