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Healthcare-associated Infections (HAIs) & Antimicrobial Resistance (AR) Prevention Program

What are healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs?

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections patients can get while receiving medical treatment. These infections are a major threat to patient safety and are often preventable. 
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health partners to reduce and eliminate HAIs.

What is antimicrobial resistance, or AR?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms (germs) to change and adapt so that medications used to treat them are not able to kill them anymore. Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms and includes resistance to antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs.

  • Simply using antimicrobials creates resistance. When microorganisms are exposed to antimicrobials (drugs used to treat infections), they naturally adapt and develop their own defense (resistance) mechanisms so they can survive and multiply.  That is why it’s important that antimicrobials are used correctly and only when needed.  Unfortunately, it’s common for antimicrobials to be prescribed incorrectly. For example, when medicine used to treat bacterial infections is used to treat a viral infection like the cold or flu, the bacteria in your body that were not making you sick might still develop resistance.  
  • Infection prevention and control practices, like excellent hand hygiene (washing hands or using hand sanitizer) and disinfecting surfaces in healthcare settings are very important to prevent the spread of drug resistant microorganisms.
  • When microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs.” This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society.
  • Although some people are at greater risk than others, no one can completely avoid the risk of antimicrobial-resistant infections. Infections with resistant organisms are difficult to treat, requiring costly and sometimes toxic alternatives.[1]
  • Aggressive action is needed to keep new resistance from developing and prevent resistant infections from spreading.

Why is it important to prevent healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance?

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), including those caused by antimicrobial resistant organisms, are significantly harmful, costly, and preventable.

  • HAIs are among the top 10 causes of death in the United States and cost in excess of $20 billion a year.
  • Healthcare-associated infections create additional suffering and come at a high cost for patients and their families. These infections prolong hospital stays, cause long-term disability, increase resistance to antimicrobials, generate high costs for patients and health systems, and can lead to death.[2]
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified eliminating HAIs as a “winnable battle,” in recognition of the fact that it is a national health priority for which there are effective strategies for prevention.

How can healthcare-associated infections be prevented?

To prevent all infections:

  • Follow standard and transmission-based precautions meticulously, use appropriate personal protective equipment, and perform hand hygiene as indicated.
  • Ensure that all medical devices and equipment are cleaned, disinfected, sterilized, and/or discarded appropriately.
  • Ensure the environment of care is maintained appropriately.
  • Speak up if you see co-workers who are not following appropriate infection prevention measures.
  • Ensure that information about infection and colonization is communicated during transitions of care.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene.

For infection-specific prevention recommendations, please visit the CDC’s website here.

What is the Illinois Department of Public Health doing to combat healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance?

Illinois Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance

The Illinois Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance (HAI/AR) is intended to serve as a guide to coordinate efforts in Illinois to make a major impact on prevention of HAI/AR across the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health Division of Patient Safety & Quality, in partnership with the statewide HAI/AR Prevention Advisory Council, developed a five-year strategic plan to track and prevent HAIs and combat AR. Click here to read the 2015 to 2020 action plan.

Vision

The state of Illinois ensures health and patient safety through prevention of healthcare-associated and antimicrobial resistant infections driven by a sustainable, collaborative, and coordinated health care system.

Mission

Reduce healthcare-associated and antimicrobial resistant infections through education, practice guidance, surveillance, and data-driven public policy and quality improvement efforts that strategically engage health care consumers, providers, and stakeholders.

Priority Areas

The Advisory Council identified four strategic priorities for HAI/AR prevention in Illinois:

  • General infection prevention across the spectrum of care
  • Treatment and assessment of infectious disease, including outbreaks
  • Expansion of antimicrobial stewardship to all healthcare settings, including reporting of antimicrobial resistance
  • Targeted efforts to prevent C. difficile and multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs) like carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)

Healthcare-associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention Advisory Council

The Healthcare-associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance (HAI/AR) Prevention Advisory Council is led by the Illinois Department of Public Health's Division of Patient Safety and Quality and is comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders in Illinois who are committed to the prevention of HAIs. 

The HAI/AR Prevention Advisory Council is convened for the purposes of creating partnerships and promoting collaboration and coordination of HAI/AR prevention activities among stakeholders. This is accomplished through facilitating dialogue and eliciting advice and feedback from Council members on establishing priorities for action, as well as the development, implementation, and evaluation of HAI/AR prevention activities to address identified needs. 

The HAI/AR Prevention Advisory Council is comprised of representatives from multiple settings and disciplines including infection preventionists/infection control practitioners, epidemiologists, physicians, pharmacists, public health professionals, nurses, microbiologists, healthcare facility administrators, dentists, and consumer advocates. For a complete list of the HAI/AR Prevention Advisory Council members, please visit here.

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