Health conditions

Healthcare associated infections

  • Bacteria and viruses cause healthcare associated infections (HAIs).
  • Often it is the micro-organisms we carry on or in our body that cause the infections.
  • Hand hygiene is a simple but very effective measure that stops the spread of germs.

Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are infections that people get as a result of the provision of healthcare. They are infections that you did not have before the commencement of your treatment. HAIs can happen when you are being treated in hospital, at home, in a GP clinic, a nursing home or any other healthcare facility.

Who is at risk of getting a HAI?

Anyone can get a HAI, however, some people are more vulnerable such as:

  • the very young and very old
  • people with underlying medical conditions e.g. diabetes
  • people with weakened immune system e.g. those receiving chemotherapy
  • people having dialysis, who are in an intensive care unit or have had transplants
  • people who have long hospital stays.

Other reasons people may get a HAI may be due to:

  • the type of procedures performed e.g. surgeries that take several hours to perform are associated with a higher risk of infection
  • the presence of invasive devices e.g. urinary catheters or intravenous catheters.
What are some common HAIs?

Some common HAIs are:

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • surgical wound infections
  • pneumonia
  • bloodstream infections.
Can HAIs be prevented?

Many HAIs can be prevented. Your healthcare providers use a range of infection prevention strategies to reduce your risk of acquiring a HAI. These include:

What can I do to prevent a HAI?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of getting a HAI:

  • everyone, including you and your visitors, need to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based rub before entering or leaving your room
  • do not be afraid to ask your healthcare worker if they have cleaned their hands
  • report any infections you have had, especially if you are still on antibiotics
  • if you have a dressing or a wound, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry – let your healthcare worker know promptly if it becomes loose or wet
  • let your healthcare worker know if any intravenous catheters, tubes, or drains inserted into your body become painful, red or swollen
  • ensure you follow the advice of your health provider about any measures you need to take prior to coming to hospital e.g. showering with an antiseptic solution before having surgery
  • stop smoking before any surgery, as smoking increases the risk of infection
  • make sure people do not visit you if they are unwell, have a cold, have been vomiting or had diarrhoea.

Where to get help

  • If you are in hospital, you can ask to speak to the infection prevention control nurse
  • See your doctor
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222


Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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