Enterococci are common bacteria (germs) that live in most people’s bowel and bladder. People often carry these germs without knowing it as they don’t cause any problems in healthy people. Occasionally these bacteria cause infections.
Vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE) occurs when the bacteria is resistant to vancomycin which is a strong antibiotic used to treat infections.
When tested in hospital, some children are found to be VRE carriers. Many children still have VRE when they are discharged from hospital.
Do I have to tell my child’s school, pre-school / kindergarten, or other parents?
No. The risk to others outside a hospital environment is very low. Regular hand washing is the most important factor in preventing spread of VRE. However, if your child has long-term treatment (e.g. cancer, haemodialysis,) there may be some restrictions on camps or gatherings with other children with the same illness.
What does this mean for you at home?
It’s always important for everyone to practice good personal hygiene in the home. This will minimise the risk of passing any germs from person to person.
Simple steps can be taken to help prevent the spread of VRE including:
- making sure you, your family and friends continue good hand washing practices
- keeping wound dressings dry and clean
- ensuring anyone assisting your child with close personal care washes their hands before and afterwards
- always telling your child’s doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other health care provider that your child had VRE or is a carrier.
There are no special precautions required for the washing of clothes, linen, crockery and cutlery or for the cleaning of the bath, shower and toilet. Costly antibacterial soap preparations or wipes are also not required as regular hand wash products are effective.
How can I prevent spreading VRE at family and community gatherings?
VRE is commonly spread when using shared toilets and hand washing facilities. If attending a gathering, carry hand sanitisers such as hand wipes and alcohol-based hand rubs for when you don’t have easy access to hand washing facilities.
Your child should not attend social gatherings if they are unwell with symptoms of diarrhoea or have wounds that cannot be covered by a dressing
If your child will be attending a function such as Camp Quality with other immunosuppressed children, you should contact the organisation beforehand regarding any restrictions they may have in place.
When should you clean your hands?
You and your child should always wash your hands:
- before handling anything that goes in your mouth or their mouth
- before preparing or eating food or drinks
- after going to the toilet
- after using a tissue or handkerchief
- after handling rubbish
- after handling dirty washing.
Can my child travel by hospital transport?
Yes, but please let the person organising the transport know that your child has VRE. If you are travelling by taxi there is no need to tell the taxi service.
What happens when we come back to the hospital?
As there may be other children who are at high risk of infection, precautions such as wearing gowns and gloves may still be required when you visit outpatient clinics, day units, present to the emergency department or are re-admitted to hospital.
Some areas may place you in a consultation or treatment room instead of the waiting area. Please let staff know that VRE precautions are required. The hospital patient information system (our patient database) should also have a record of the need for VRE precautions.
Special precautions such as wearing gloves and gowns may be required depending on your child’s test or procedure and the area of the hospital you will have to visit.
Can we stay in hospital accommodation?
Yes, but your child may be asked to avoid some common areas such as the lounge room, shared bathrooms and play areas to decrease the risk of passing the germ onto other people.
Where can you find out more information?
Please speak to the infection management team or the healthcare worker looking after you or your family.
Infection Management and Prevention Service
Queensland Children’s Hospital
Level 12, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane 4101
t: 07 3068 4145 (nurses)
t: 07 3068 5367 (administration)
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.