The 5 Most Common Types of Healthcare-Acquired Infections

“What are the most common healthcare-acquired infections?” is a question we are asked a lot at Servicon. The answer depends on a variety of factors, such as the environment (hospital surgery rooms vs. non-healthcare, for example) and population (healthy adults vs. immune-compromised or elderly individuals). However, according to experts, there are five major categories of healthcare-acquired infections that EVS workers should know to help prevent the spread of infection.

Before we examine these, however, it is essential to understand what healthcare-acquired infections are and why they matter.

What Is a Healthcare-Acquired Infection?

Healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are sometimes referred to as hospital-associated infections or healthcare-associated infections. HAIs are defined as infections contracted 48 hours or more after being admitted to a healthcare facility or within 30 days of discharge. HAIs are one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Healthcare-Acquired Infection Statistics

According to the CDC’s 2019 National and State Healthcare-Associated Infections Progress Report:

  • Approximately one in 31 hospital patients has at least one HAI on any given day.
  • 3% of hospitalized patients in the 2015 survey had one or more HAI.
  • There were an estimated 687,000 HAIs in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2015.
  • An estimated 72,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations in 2015.

Further, according to what is touted as the world’s most extensive study of severe COVID-19 cases to date, more than 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients in 314 UK hospitals caught the infection while in the hospital.

These statistics show the danger HAIs pose and why, to help further incentivize institutions to reduce the occurrence of HAIs, the U.S. government has tied Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to lower incidences of the potentially deadly infections.

Of course, patient safety is the No. 1 reason to reduce HAIs. In addition to increasing mortality rates, these infections increase patients’ length of hospital stays and healthcare costs. In fact, the top five HAIs add about US $9.8 billion to healthcare costs each year. In addition, HAIs are not limited to individual patient illnesses; HAIs become a communal problem due to contagiousness and their link to multidrug antibiotic-resistant infections.

Top 5 Healthcare-Acquired Infections

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, HAIs include infections in five major categories:

Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs). A central line is a catheter or tube placed in a primary vein close to the heart, such as those found in the neck, chest, or groin, to give medication or fluids or collect blood for medical tests. CLABSIs are life-threatening infections caused by germs (usually bacteria or viruses) entering the bloodstream through the central line.

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). These infections most often occur due to pathogens entering the patient during or after a urinary catheter is inserted and, like most HAIs, can result in death.

Surgical site infections (SSIs). The most common and costly of all hospital-acquired infections, SSIs account for 20 percent of all HAIs and occur in an estimated 2% to 5% of patients who undergo inpatient surgery.

Pneumonia. This includes both hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). HAP is defined as “pneumonia that occurs 48 hours or more after admission to the hospital and did not appear to be incubating at the time of admission.” According to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), VAP is defined as “pneumonia that develops more than 48 to 72 hours after endotracheal intubation. Both HAP and VAP are associated with significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Many experts believe these numbers have risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since COVID made diagnosing VAP more difficult.

Clostridium difficile or C. diff, infections (CDIs). CDIs are caused by a bacterium that causes an inflammation of the colon, known as colitis. Diarrhea and fever are the most common symptoms of CDIs. However, severe cases can cause intestinal inflammation, enlargement of the colon (toxic megacolon), and sepsis, any of which may require patients to be admitted to intensive care.

With so much at stake, it is essential for hospital and other healthcare EVS workers to understand HAIs so they are better prepared to combat them and help save lives.

Are you a healthcare facility in or near California looking to better protect your patients from HAIs? Visit our healthcare pages to learn more about the Servicon HAI-fighting advantage, or call us today at 310-204-5040. Learn about other types of facilities that we provide expertise cleaning services.


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