It is hard to remember a time when there were so many news stories about infectious disease.  First, the public was told to worry about a really bad flu this winter.  Then an outbreak of the measles, which many thought to have disappeared decades ago due to immunization.  And now the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning of a new superbug: CRE (the scientific name for which is carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae).  This should not be a cause for alarm, but rather a call for vigilance by every patient to take charge of their own health.

CRE is a family of bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics. CRE mainly causes infections when it leaves the intestine for other parts of the body and when the body’s ability to fight infection deteriorates. CRE is much more difficult to treat than other deadly infections, and up to half of those who contract CRE bloodstream infections die.  Those who get CRE bloodstream infections often previously contracted infections that landed them in the hospital. Once such patients are in the hospital, they can get CRE bloodstream infections through contact with medical devices.

The spread of the flu, measles, and now CRE only brings added importance to proper hygiene.  Make sure to wash your hands before, during, and after any personal interactions at any healthcare facility.  If you do not have access to soap and water, use waterless hand sanitizer, and make sure you dry your hands with a clean paper towel every time.  You should also ensure that your healthcare professionals wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub before making contact with you or any tubes attached to you.  CDC also recommends letting your doctor know if you’ve visited any other hospitals in the recent past.