According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new superbug is on the rise across America. The bacterial strain Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, more commonly referred to as the phantom menace, has killed up to 50 percent of all infected patients. Because this CRE variety is far less antibiotic resistant, it has all but avoided detection - ergo the name - and has only become the CDC's focus as of very recently.
Given this warning from the CDC, it's important that families take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Here are a few tips to protect against CRE and other superbugs:
Clean and cover: Generally speaking, proper health care etiquette and behavior is always a good idea. With the threat of a superbug looming, these protocols become especially important. As Discovery News pointed out, the best way to reduce the spread of germs is to sneeze or cough into the pit of your elbow. Wash your hands every time you sneeze or cough, and use antibacterial soap whenever possible. Never touch your mouth, eyes or nose, as this is the easiest way to expose yourself to germs.
A cut above: Scrapes and cuts are a normal part of everyday life. Maybe you were injured while gardening, or you bumped into something on the way to work. Regardless, you may have a number of small cuts on your body, and this can prove problematic during a superbug outbreak. These lesions are just another point of access for strains like CRE, which is why you need to take extra precautions, especially when visiting a medical facility. Cover your cuts with bandages or pieces of clothing. Wash your cuts frequently and use antibacterial ointments afterward.
Follow the signs: Dr. Brad Spellberg is an infectious diseases specialist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Speaking with Frontline, he explained that there is no clear symptomatic difference between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-susceptible infections. However, there are certain things to be mindful of. For instance, if your fever is accompanied by the chills, or your condition continues to worsen, you may be dealing with a serious bacterial infection. Speak to your primary doctor, who can help better identify your specific ailment.
Avoid antibiotic overload: Some people use winter or flu season to load up on antibiotics as a preventive measure. Others immediately begin a regimen once something innocuous sets in, like a sore throat. However, as Everyday Health pointed out, people should be wary when taking antibiotics. Relying too heavily on this otherwise helpful form of medicine can actually cause your body to develop a specific immunity. On the flip-side of this dynamic, if you are ever prescribed antibiotics, it's important to complete the regimen; otherwise, the pills won't prove as effective.
Get your shots: Dr. Wendy Stead studies infectious diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She revealed to Frontline that to better protect yourself from superbugs, you need to stay up-to-date on your flu vaccination. People who come down with influenza have a weakened immune system, one that's much more susceptible to various other strains. To get your vaccinations, you can visit a CareWell Urgent Care location. Each hospital's team of highly-trained staff can provide you with every vaccination you and your family might require.