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International Infection Prevention Week - October 17


COVID-19 continues to show the world what we’ve always known—infection preventionists (IPs) play a crucial role in keeping our neighborhoods safe and healthy. In addition to fighting a global pandemic, the infection prevention and control community is protecting us from surges in healthcare-associated infections, measles outbreaks, flu season, and so many other day-to-day infectious battles. 

International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), established in 1986, aims to shine a light on infection prevention each and every year. Last year’s IIPW focused on celebrating IPs for their bravery and tireless efforts in 2020. This year’s theme is “Make Your Intention Infection Prevention”—we want to highlight the science behind infection prevention and inspiring the next generation of IPs to join the fight.


History of Infection Prevention Week

Established in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) focuses attention on the importance of infection prevention in saving lives and healthcare dollars.  APIC has spearheaded this annual effort to highlight the significance of infection prevention among healthcare professionals, administrators, legislators, and consumers.

Over the years, this week of recognition has vastly expanded to every corner of the globe, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. As the reach of IIPW widens, more patients benefit from safer healthcare practices and reduced threat of healthcare-associated infections.


Infection Prevention and Control

No one should get sick seeking care. Yet globally, hundreds of millions of people are affected every year by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), many of which are completely avoidable. No country or health system, even the most developed or sophisticated, can claim to be free of HAIs.

Preventing HAIs has never been more important. HAIs significantly impact the ability of health systems to adapt, respond, and manage infection risk alongside the ongoing clinical care of patients.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) is a practical, evidence-based approach whose aim is to prevent patients and health workers from being harmed by avoidable infections. Preventing healthcare-associated infection (HAIs) avoids this unnecessary harm and at times even death, saves money, reduces the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and supports high-quality, integrated, people-centered health services. It is grounded in infectious diseases, epidemiology, health system strengthening, and implementation science. IPC occupies a unique position in the field of patient safety and quality universal health coverage since it is relevant to health workers and patients at every single health care encounter. 

No country, no health care facility, even within the most advanced and sophisticated health care systems, can claim to be free of the problem of HAIs. The need for IPC programs nationally and at the facility level is clearly reinforced within the WHO 100 Core Health Indicators list. 

What are HAIs? 

An HAI is an infection that is acquired by a patient during care delivery in a hospital or other health care facility that was not present or incubating on admission. Visitors, family members, and health workers can also be affected by HAIS.

HAIS are mostly caused by microorganisms resistant to one or more commonly-used antibiotics. Common HAIs include urine, chest, blood, and wound infections.


Common HAI Determinant

In all settings

  • Inappropriate use of invasive devices and antibiotics
  • High-risk diagnostic or therapeutic procedures
  • Immuno-suppression, other severe underlying illnesses and conditions affecting newborns and older people
  • Sub-standard application of IPC precautions

In settings with limited resources

  • Poor water, sanitation, waste management, and environmental cleaning
  • Insufficient equipment
  • Understaffing, as well as overcrowding
  • Poor knowledge of all IPC measures including injection and blood transfusion safety
  • Absence of local/national IPC guidelines, policies, and programs

Key Facts on HAIs

  • On average, 1 in every 10 patients is affected by HAIs worldwide. In acute care hospitals, out of every 100 patients, 7 in developed and 15 in developing countries will acquire at least one HAI
  • In high-income countries, up to 30% of patients are affected by at least one HAI in intensive care units; in developing countries the frequency is at least 2-3- times higher
  • 16 billion injections are administered every year worldwide, up to 70% of which are given with reused syringes and needles in some developing countries
  • On average, 61% of health workers do not adhere to recommended hand hygiene practices
  • Among hospital-born babies, infections are responsible for 4%-56% of all causes of death in the neonatal period
  • In Africa, up to 20% of women get a wound infection after a cesarean section, affecting their health and ability to care for their baby
  • Patients infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are about 50% more likely to die than those infected with non-resistant strains

Why IPC is so important

While each year hundreds of millions of patients are affected by HAIs, this problem usually receives public attention only when there is an outbreak or epidemic, as with the recent Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. Although often hidden from public attention, the endemic, ongoing problem is very real and no institution or country can afford to ignore it.

IPC is unique in the field of patient safety and quality of care, as it is universally relevant to every health worker and patient, at every health care interaction. Defective IPC causes harm and can kill.

Without effective IPC it is impossible to achieve quality health care delivery. At a time of threat from AMR and when most countries are working to ensure access to integrated, people-centered health services for all, IPC has a tremendous contribution to make.

There is overwhelming evidence that the implementation of IPC best practices leads to significant reductions in HAIs and patient harm. Best results are achieved when IPC is supported by political and management support, integrated within clinical services, and patient safety culture.


Filed Under: WHO, COVID-19, awareness