Questions and Answers about Healthcare-Associated Infections

Who is at risk for healthcare-associated infections?
Anyone who is a patient in a hospital is at risk for a healthcare-associated infection. 

What are the most common types of healthcare-associated infections?
The frequency of healthcare-associated infections varies by body site. Of the 1.7 million infections reported among patients, the most common healthcare-associated infections are urinary tract infections (32 percent), surgical site infections (22 percent), pneumonias (15 percent), and bloodstream infections (14 percent).

How does CDC estimate the number of healthcare-associated infections in the United States?
To develop the national estimate, CDC used three sources of data 1) National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) system, a voluntary network of U.S. hospitals; 2) National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), an annual survey of characteristics of inpatients discharged from U.S. hospitals; and 3) American Hospital Association (AHA)  annual survey of hospitals and their characteristics.

Are healthcare-associated infection rates getting better or worse?
The 2002 estimate for all infections combined is not comparable to previous overall estimates. However, rates of healthcare-associated infection appear to be improving.  For example, declines in rates of central-line associated bloodstream infections and surgical site infections were observed among hospitals participating in NNIS from about 1992 to 2004.  In a regional collaboration of 32 hospitals in Pennsylvania, rates of central-line associated bloodstream infections declined 68% during a four year period. Read more

What can I do as a healthcare provider to prevent healthcare-associated infections?
Healthcare providers can prevent healthcare-associated infections by adhering to recommended infection control practices including standard, contact, droplet, and airborne precautions. To learn more about infection control precautions, see Guideline for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals.

Date last modified: May 30, 2007
Content source: 
Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP)
National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases