What you need to know about this year’s “phantom menace” superbug

Ah, ’tis the season for sniffling, sneezing, and colds. As the temperature begins to drop, and you close up all windows and doors for the Winter season, that means that any germs floating around in the air are going to sit nice and cozy with you on the couch. While hopefully you’ve already gotten your flu shot for the year — seriously, friends, go get your flu shot — there’s another strain out there, just waiting to get you sick.

There’s a “superbug” out there, and its nickname is the “phantom menace.” Not because it’s got a double-sided lightsaber. Instead, this phantom bug lurks in the shadows and is somewhat difficult to treat, since it’s good at fighting off antibiotics. Its scientific classification is a “Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae,” or a CRE, and that translates to something you really don’t want to catch.

If that’s not enough to make you worried, this phantom menace superbug is still mostly unknown. Since it’s hard to treat with antibiotics, not much research has been done on it considering the fact that it’s hard to detect. When it is discovered, researchers have noted that the superbug’s bacteria can (and will!) easily transfer to the bacteria naturally found in your body. This makes it even harder to fight off.

While there have only been 43 cases of it over the last five years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists it at a 50% mortality rate. That’s NOT good.

Last Thursday, the CDC released a brand new report about this bug, and while it’s alarming, you shouldn’t freak out just yet. Their report indicates that many who contracted the phantom menace had traveled outside of the US, had been hospitalized outside of the US for one or more nights, and, the median age for patients who had contracted it was 70 years. If you don’t fit into any of those categories, no need to quarantine yourself off.

It’s still something to definitely keep in mind and be aware of, especially since the number of infected patients has increased over the years. But! There are plenty of things you can to do keep yourself healthy and phantom menace free for this coming cold season, like:

  • Always wash your hands. Always. All the time. Even if you’re healthy, you can come in contact with someone who’s sick and a quick handshake might be to blame.
  • Don’t touch your face! If you’ve got germs on your hands, touching your face is the easiest way for them to get inside of you, via the mouth, eyes, or nose.
  • Work out. Seriously. Any activity that increases your heart rate increases your body’s ability to fight off infections.
  • Drink lots of fluids. This is a given; you should always be drinking lots of fluids. But if you feel a cold coming on, start chugging that water to naturally flush it out of your system.
  • Actually go to bed at a reasonable time. That Netflix binge isn’t going anywhere, it’ll still be there for you in the morning. So instead of clicking on “Next Episode” click the lights off and drift off to sleep. You’ll feel so much better in the morning.

If you want to read up on the full phantom menace report, you can check out the CDC’s findings here. Stay healthy, friends.

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