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(NECN/NBC News: Monica Robins) - Warnings about dangerous C. diff infections have been around for years, but now health officials are worried about another silent threat lurking in hospitals: the deadly super bug called CRE that's nearly impossible to treat.
Randy Kolasinski tragically understands the deadly danger of an antibiotic resistant infection. His mother died of one.
"The doctor said there were two treatments for C. diff and neither one of them worked,” said Kolasinski. “The doctors affiliated the C. diff to the antibiotics she was on after her surgery."
"CRE stands for Carbopenemaise Resistant Enterobacterioacea, and what that means is that it’s not just one germ. It's a family of germs that are causing the problem," said Dr. Frank Esper, an infectious disease specialist.
Carbapenem is the most potent antibiotic available, but it can't fight CRE and the fatality rate is already 50 percent. Ironically, these germs have always been with us.
Esper called them "normal germs that most people have in their guts, but have become resistant over time because of repeated exposure to antibiotics"
But once the immune system is compromised, they attack, "at which point in time it's very difficult to treat because we don't have very many antibiotics that work anymore," said Esper.
CRE has been found in 42 states, four percent of short-stay hospitals and 18 percent of acute care facilities.
Infection control is the key. That starts with frequent hand washing. Every healthcare professional and anyone else who enters your hospital room should wash hands or use hand sanitizer in your presence. For your own protection, bring disinfectant wipes and clean surfaces such as telephones, TV remotes, bed handles and door knobs.
Many hospitals and nursing homes are testing patients before admission to see if they're already infected and, if so, isolating them from others. But it's still one more thing that stresses Kolasinski.
"I'd be worried about my father if he were in the hospital," he said.