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Toolbox  –  Prevent infection

Health care

Infection prevention and control programs at health care facilities are designed to prevent occurrence and spread of health care-associated infections and resistant bacteria in patients, health care workers, visitors and other persons associated with health care facilities.

Improving infection prevention reduces the spread of pathogens. This reduces the need for antibiotic treatment and in turn decreases the selection pressure caused by antibiotics and thereby the development and spread of resistance.

Health care-associated infections

Health care-associated infections lead to increased mortality, prolonged hospital stay, long-term disability, higher costs for patients, their families and society. The spread of resistant bacteria and acquiring health care-associated infections are interconnected and both are a threat to patient safety and the ever-escalating problem of antibiotic resistance. Community-acquired infectious diseases can also be amplified via health care. Read more: UNDERSTAND: Antibiotic resistance – Health care-associated infections.

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Coordinated approaches for early detection, management, and response to these threats are needed. Infection prevention and control programs work closely together with both clinical microbiology laboratories and rational use programs to prevent harm, improve patient safety and work to reverse increasing rates of antibiotic resistance. Many individual initiatives can be taken, to prevent and control infection however a formally organized infection prevention and control program has greater chances for a longer lasting effect. Where programs do not exist, they should be established, where they do, they should be constantly improved upon. National guidelines on infection control can form the basis for and facilitate the development and implementation of programs at health care-facilities. However, it is also possible for initiatives to begin within a health care facility and lead to the development of national guidelines.

Programs can be based on the core components of infection prevention as recommended by the WHO and include basic or broad interventions that attempt to reduce rates of infections from all pathogens. The program can then be supplemented with with narrow infection specific or pathogen specific interventions based on their incremental value and the needs of facility.

Core components outlines the most important elements of an infection prevention and control program.

Set up a program describes the use of a five-step project management process to establish infection prevention and control programs in health care facilities.

Interventions provides information and resources on basic, infection specific and pathogen specific interventions for infection prevention and control.

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Moody, J. et al. Antimicrobial stewardship: a collaborative partnership between infection preventionists and health care epidemiologists. Am J Infect Control 40, 94–95 (2012).
Dellit, T. H. et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America guidelines for developing an institutional program to enhance antimicrobial stewardship. Clin. Infect. Dis. 44, 159–177 (2007).
Nejad, S. B., Allegranzi, B., Syed, S., Ellis, B. & Pittet, D. Health-care-associated infection in Africa: a systematic review. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 89, 757–765 (2011).