Infections from the bacteria are rising dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says CRE bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics over the past decade, leaving infected patients no good treatment options.
The CDC says during the first half of last year almost 200 health care facilities treated at least one infected patient. The people who are most at risk are patients in intensive care, or those receiving chemotherapy or organ transplants. So far 42 states have reported CRE infections, most of which are in the Northeast.
CRE infections are still relatively uncommon, but the CDC says hospitals need to act now to prevent the problem from getting bigger.
"It's careful attention to washing your hands, using alcohol based hand sanitizer, wearing gowns and gloves when you're caring for these patients, cleaning equipment carefully," says Dr. Arjun Srinivasan with the CDC.
Health experts say identifying which patients have the bacteria and making sure health care workers don't inadvertently spread it from patient to patient are two key steps to take.