Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are defined as infections not present and without evidence of incubation at the time of admission to a healthcare setting. As a better reflection of the diverse healthcare settings currently available to patients, the term healthcare-associated infections replaced old ones such as nosocomial, hospital-acquired or hospital-onset infections. Within hours after admission, a patient’s flora begins to acquire characteristics of the surrounding bacterial pool. Most infections that become clinically evident after 48 hours of hospitalization are considered hospital-acquired. Infections that occur after the patient is discharged from the hospital can be considered healthcare-associated if the organisms were acquired during the hospital stay.
Hospital-based programs of surveillance, prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections have been in place since the 1950s. The Study on the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control Project (SENIC) from the 1970s showed nosocomial rates could be reduced by 32% if infection surveillance were coupled with appropriate infection control programs. In 2005, the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) was established with the purpose of integrating and succeeding previous surveillance systems at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS), Dialysis Surveillance Network (DSN) and National Surveillance System for Healthcare Workers (NaSH).
Continued surveillance, along with sound infection control programs, not only lead to decreased healthcare-associated infections but also better prioritization of resources and efforts to improving medical care.
Healthcare-associated infections are of important wide-ranging concern in the medical field. They can be localized or systemic, can involve any system of the body, be associated with medical devices or blood product transfusions. This article focuses on the 3 major sites of healthcare-associated infections (ie, bloodstream infection, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection) with focus on the pediatric population.