Perhaps you have been reading the scary articles about CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae)? If you haven't, just search 'CRE superbug' and hear the doom and gloom for yourself. Basically, these awful suckers are found in hospital. They have been stealing resistence coding genes from other bacteria previously treated with antibiotics and are now resistant to our last line of defense antibiotics - carbapenems. The antibiotics also kill off the non-resistent competing bacteria giving these bad guys free reign in a patient. Half of the patients who get the infections will die because no antibiotics can treat them. The bacteria are currently found exclusively in healthcare facilities . . . for now. . .
Freaked out? Wondering what you can do to protect yourself?
- Wash your hands constantly while visiting a hospital. Touch something, cough on something, get coughed on - wash your hands. Try to keep from bringing as few germs as possible home from the hospital. Make sure everyone, including your doctor, nurse, tech, and housekeeping staff do the same.
- Minimize your use of antibiotics. You probably don't have CRE, but the more 'normal' bacteria you keep around, the less resistant bacteria you are carrying. Many illnesses are actually viral and antibiotics will do nothing except kill of the innocent bystander bacteria.
- Avoid visiting immunocompromised/elderly people while you are sick. They are the most vulnerable and constantly exposed to more antibiotics and germs. If a patient on chemotherapy gets a cold and fever, they may get treated with antibiotics. Even if it's probably just a virus, they can't take the chance it could be bacterial. An untreated bacterial infection in a patient with no white blood cells to fight it is almost always fatal.
Don't worry, in the future, I'll be writing a post on how I cope as a doctor knowing about all the killer germs out there. Hint - my kids eat dirt at non-hospital places.