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VRE and the HIV+ person. . .
Dec 28, 1999

My mother is in the hospital after having open heart surgery a month ago. She's in Pennsylvania and I am in NYC. I visit her every weekend; I did this past weekend too.

I got a call from my sister-in-law this morning (Tuesday, 08/17/99). It seems my mom has a urinary infection - a relatively NEW infection that is about a year old in the medical community - called VRE. We are told that VRE is highly contagious. But, as long as it stays within thr urine it is not bad. However, if it gets in the bloodstream (especially the bloodstream of someone with HIV) it is untreatably fatal. However, for that to happen, her uring must get on me and I have to have an open sore / cut.

Is this true? Is there anything else you can tell me about VRE and HIV? Does kissing her hello/goodbye put me at risk? Holding her hand? I'd appreciate any and all information you can give. My email address is:

Thank you,

Response from Dr. Feinberg

VRE stands for Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, which is a bacterium that is transmitted in hospitals, usually among the sickest patients. If your mother has VRE, the hospital staff and visitors should be observing contact precautions. The primary risk is to other sick, hospitalized patients, not to you. But staff and visitors can transmit VRE on their hands. Wash you hands carefully before and after your visit and wear a disposable hospital gown. I think you can kiss her without concern.

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