Visits suspended at N.B. hospital unit due to antibiotic-resistant infection

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All visits are temporarily suspended for the internal medicine and telemetry unit at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, N.B.

In a release, Vitalité Heath Network said this is due to “the presence of Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) in patients on that unit.”

The ban on visitors includes general visitors and designated support persons, although designated support persons may still see end-of-life patients.

The health network did not say how many patients had VRE and Global News has reached out for more details.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, enterococci are bacteria that live in the intestine and urinary tract, and can also be found in the environment. The bacteria does not generally cause illness, but when it does it can be treated with antibiotics.

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However, VRE are strains of enterococci that are resistant to antibiotics, including vancomycin — an antibiotic often prescribed to treat infections that are resistant to other kinds of antibiotics. VRE can cause infections in the urinary tract, bloodstream and wounds from catheters or surgical procedures.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada said VRE infections are most common in health-care settings “among patients with weakened immune systems.”

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“Those who have been previously treated with vancomycin or other antibiotics for long periods of time; those who have undergone surgical procedures and those with medical devices such as urinary catheters are at a higher risk of becoming infected with VRE,” it said.

VRE can spread from patient to patient when bacteria is carried on the hands of health-care workers, and occasionally through contact with contaminated equipment or other surfaces like toilet seats, bedrails, door handles, linens and stethoscopes.

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“This is why proper infection prevention and control practices, such as proper hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves are important in hospital settings,” it said.

According to a 2022 Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System report, the incidence rate of VRE has increased by 72.2 per cent from 2016 to 2020 — from 0.18 per 10,000 patient-days to 0.31.

Nearly one in three patients diagnosed with a VRE bloodstream infection died within 30 days of diagnosis, it said.

The Government of Canada says it is “working with its partners at all levels of government, hospitals and within the communities to reduce the incidence and spread of antibiotic resistant infections.”

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