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Definitions related to healthcare associated infections

The following are definitions and acronyms commonly used in the context of healthcare associated infections:


  • CAUTI: Catheter associated urinary tract infection
  • CDC:  Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • CDI: Clostridium difficile infection
  • CLABSI: Central line associated bloodstream infection
  • CMS:  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • HAI:  Healthcare associated infections
  • HICPAC:  Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee
  • HHS:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • ISDH:  Indiana State Department of Health
  • MDRO: Multidrug resistant organism
  • MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • NHSN:  National Healthcare Safety Network
  • SSI: Surgical site infection
  • VAP: Ventilator associated pneumonia


From 42CFR 483.65 - F441 Infection Control
Definitions are provided to clarify terminology or terms related to infection control practices in nursing homes.

Airborne precautions” refers to actions taken to prevent or minimize the transmission of infectious agents/organisms that remain infectious over long distances when suspended in the air. These particles can remain suspended in the air for prolonged periods of time and can be carried on normal air currents in a room or beyond, to adjacent spaces or areas receiving exhaust air.

Alcohol-based hand rub” (ABHR) refers to a 60-95 percent ethanol or isopropyl- containing preparation base designed for application to the hands to reduce the number of viable microorganisms.

Antifungal” refers to a medication used to treat a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot, ringworm or candidiasis.

Anti-infective” refers to a group of medications used to treat infections.

Antiseptic hand wash” is “washing hands with water and soap or other detergents containing an antiseptic agent.”

Cohorting” refers to the practice of grouping residents infected or colonized with the same infectious agent together to confine their care to one area and prevent contact with susceptible residents (cohorting residents). During outbreaks, healthcare personnel may be assigned to a cohort of residents to further limit opportunities for transmission (cohorting staff).

Colonization” refers to the presence of microorganisms on or within body sites without detectable host immune response, cellular damage, or clinical expression.

Communicable disease” (also known as [a.k.a.] “Contagious disease”) refers to an infection transmissible (as from person-to-person) by direct contact with an affected individual or the individual's body fluids or by indirect means (as by a vector).

Community associated infections” (formerly “Community Acquired Infections”) refers to infections that are present or incubating at the time of admission, or generally develop within 72 hours of admission.

Contact precautions” are measures that are “intended to prevent transmission of infectious agents, including epidemiologically important microorganisms, which are spread by direct or indirect contact with the resident or the resident’s environment.”
Droplet precautions” refers to actions designed to reduce/prevent the transmission of pathogens spread through close respiratory or mucous membrane contact with respiratory secretions.
Hand hygiene” is a general term that applies to washing hands with water and either plain soap or soap/detergent containing an antiseptic agent; or thoroughly applying an alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR).

Hand washing” refers to washing hands with plain (i.e., nonantimicrobial) soap and water.
“Health care associated infection [HAI]” (a.k.a. “nosocomial” and “facility-acquired” infection) refers to an infection that generally occurs after 72 hours from the time of admission to a health care facility.

Infection” refers the establishment of an infective agent in or on a suitable host, producing clinical signs and symptoms (e.g., fever, redness, heat, purulent exudates, etc).

Infection prevention and control program” refers to a program (including surveillance, investigation, prevention, control, and reporting) that provides a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment to help prevent the development and transmission of infection.

Infection preventionist (IP)” (a.k.a. infection control professional) refers to a person whose primary training is in either nursing, medical technology, microbiology, or epidemiology and who has acquired additional training in infection control.

Isolation” refers to the practices employed to reduce the spread of an infectious agent and/or minimize the transmission of infection.

Isolation precautions” see “Transmission-Based Precautions”

Medical waste” refers to any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining to, or in the production or testing of biologicals (e.g., blood-soaked bandages, sharps).

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)" refers to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that are resistant to treatment with semi-synthetic penicillins (e.g., Oxacillin/Nafcillin/Methicillin).

Multi-Drug resistant organisms (MDROs)” refers to microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, that are resistant to one or more classes of antimicrobial agents. Although the names of certain MDROs describe resistance to only one agent, these pathogens are frequently resistant to most available antimicrobial agents.
Outbreak” is the occurrence of more cases of a particular infection than is normally expected, the occurrence of an unusual organism, or the occurrence of unusual antibiotic resistance patterns.
Personal protective equipment” (PPE) refers to protective items or garments worn to protect the body or clothing from hazards that can cause injury.

Standard precautions” (formerly “Universal Precautions”) refers to infection prevention practices that apply to all residents, regardless of suspected or confirmed diagnosis or presumed infection status. Standard Precautions is a combination and expansion of Universal Precautions and Body Substance Isolation (a practice of isolating all body substances such as blood, urine, and feces).
Surveillance” refers to the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data to identify infections and infection risks, to try to reduce morbidity and mortality and to improve resident health status.
Transmission-based precautions” (a.k.a. “Isolation Precautions”) refers to the actions (precautions) implemented, in addition to standard precautions, that are based upon the means of transmission (airborne, contact, and droplet) in order to prevent or control infections.

Vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE)” refers to enterococcus that has developed resistance to vancomycin.

Updated:  12/11/09