Health Care-Associated Infections

Health care-associated infections (HAIs) are infections people get while they are receiving health care for another condition. HAIs can happen in any health care facility, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, end-stage renal disease facilities, and long-term care facilities. HAIs can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other, less common pathogens.

HAIs are a significant cause of illness and death — and they can have devastating emotional, financial, and medical consequences. At any given time, about 1 in 25 inpatients have an infection related to hospital care. These infections lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year.

These factors raise the risk of HAIs:

  • Catheters (bloodstream, endotracheal, and urinary)
  • Surgery
  • Injections
  • Health care settings that aren’t properly cleaned and disinfected
  • Communicable diseases passing between patients and healthcare workers
  • Overuse or improper use of antibiotics

Common HAIs patients get in hospitals include:

  • Central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI)
  • Clostridium difficile infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections
  • Surgical site infections
  • Urinary tract infections

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) are some of the most common HAIs.

Partnering to Heal

This online video-simulation training program focuses on HAI prevention for clinicians, health professional students, and patient advocates. The training highlights effective communication practices and ideas for creating a culture of safety in healthcare institutions. Learn more about the training.

Partnering to Heal course

Improving Patient Safety

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had previously identified the reduction of HAIs as an Agency Priority Goal. HHS is now committed to reducing the national rate of HAIs by demonstrating significant, quantitative, and measurable reductions in CAUTI, CLABSI, Clostridium difficile, MRSA, and surgical site infections.

Find out more about the Department’s HAI reduction goals, including progress made.

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