GlossaryHealthcare Associated Infection Program (HAI) - Glossary of Terms

Below is a list of terms, and their definitions, frequently used in the discussion of Healthcare Associated Infection

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  • Ambulatory Surgical Center, Ambulatory Surgical Facility: Healthcare facilities that offer surgical services only to patients who go home the same day after their operation.
  • Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC): A voluntary membership organization representing members of this profession.
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs): A urinary tract infection that is caused by catheterizing of the bladder.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: One of the foremost national agencies in the world that serve as reference centers and provide field services to support and advance public health.
  • Central Line (pdf*): A flexible tube that is inserted near the patient's heart or into one of the large veins or arteries. A central line provides access to a large vein that can be used to give fluids, measure the amount of fluid in the body or to give medication. A Central line may also be called a central venous catheter.
  • Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI): A CLABSI is a primary bloodstream infection (BSI) in a patient that had a central line or umbilical catheter in place at the time of the onset of the event, or was in place within 48 hours before the onset of the event.
  • Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) Rate: Infection rate is defined as the number of CLABSI infections per 1000 central line-days.
  • Clostridium difficile-Associated Disease (CDAD): An intestinal illness caused by toxins that are produced by a specific type of bacteria named Clostridium difficile. Also known as: C. Difficile, c. diff., and CDI (clostridium difficile infection).
  • Community Acquired (CA) Infection: An infection that occurs without exposure in recent weeks or months to the risk from care in a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or home-care treatment by a health professional.
  • Device Associated Infection: An infection in a patient with a device (e.g., ventilator or central line) that was used within the 48-hour period before onset of infection. If the interval is longer than 48 hours, there must be compelling evidence that the infection was associated with device use. For catheter-associated UTI, indwelling urinary catheter must have been in place within 7 days before positive laboratory results or signs and symptoms meeting criteria for UTI were evident.
  • DHHS: The Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Drug-resistant infections: Infections that have become resistant to antibiotics commonly used to kill infections caused by resistant strains of bacteria. Usually, other antibiotics can be used to kill drug resistant infections.
  • Epidemiology: the study of the distribution and determinants of health conditions or events among populations and the application of that study to control health problems.
  • Exposure: Having come into contact with a cause of, or possessing a characteristic that is a determinant of, a particular health problem.
  • Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC): HICPAC is a federal advisory committee made up of 14 external infection control experts who provide advice and guidance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the practice of health care infection control, strategies for surveillance and prevention and control of health care associated infections in United States health care facilities.
  • Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI): A localized or systemic condition resulting from an adverse reaction to the presence of an infectious agent(s) or its toxin(s) that: 
    1. occurs in a patient in a healthcare setting (e.g., a hospital or outpatient clinic), 
    2. was not found to be present or incubating at the time of admission unless the infection was related to a previous admission to the same setting, and 
    3. if the setting is a hospital, meets the criteria for a specific infection site as defined by CDC.
  • Hip replacement: An elective procedure for people with severe hip damage or pain related to chronic osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other degenerative processes involving the hip joint. The surgical procedure for a hip replacement involves removing the damaged cartilage and bone from the hip joint and replacing them with new, manufactured parts.
  • Hospital Compare: A quality tool provided by Medicare - A tool to find information on how well hospitals care for patients with certain medical conditions or surgical procedures, and results from a survey of patients about the quality of care they received during a recent hospital stay. This information will help you compare the quality of care hospitals provide.
  • Incidence Rate: The proportion of a population that has a particular condition that began during any given time period the rate covers. It is measured one of three ways, by an attack rate, an incidence density rate, or a cumulative incidence risk.
  • Infant: A child less than one year old.
  • Infection Control Practitioner, Infection Control Professional, Infection Preventionist: A healthcare worker who specializes in infection surveillance, control and prevention.
  • Infection: Invasion of the body tissues of a host by an infectious agent, whether or not it causes disease.
  • Infusion: The introduction of a solution through a blood vessel via a catheter lumen. This may include continuous infusions such as nutritional fluids or medications, or it may include intermittent infusions such as flushes or IV antimicrobial administration, or blood, in the case of transfusion or hemodialysis.
  • Inpatient: A patient whose date of admission to the healthcare facility and the date of discharge are different calendar day.
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement: A private organization devoted to improving the safety, effectiveness and quality of healthcare services globally. It advocates, educates, draws leaders together and initiates demonstration projects.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU): An area in the hospital where the most intensive monitoring and advanced support are provided to critically ill patients.
  • Intravascular device: A device used to administer a solution into a vein, such as the familiar IV drip.
  • Long Term Acute Care Facility: A healthcare facility authorized by the Department of Social and Health Services to specialize in twenty-four hour inpatient medical and rehabilitative care for patients who have medically complex needs. These patients typically are bed-bound, ventilator-dependent and require daily assessment by a physician. These facilities are not identical with chronic care, skilled nursing, acute rehabilitation or short-term acute-care hospital facilities.
  • Maine CDC: Maine Center for Disease Control.
  • MRSA - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: Methicillin is an antibiotic drug commonly used to treat Staphylococcus (staph) infections. Some strains of staph are not killed by methicillin. If the staph infection is not killed by methicillin then it is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
  • Multidrug-resistant Organism (MDRO): Bacteria that have become unusually resistant to many of the drugs that used to be effective against them.
  • National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN): A secure computer system run by CDC for hospitals throughout America to share information about their healthcare associated infection rates.
  • National Quality Forum: A national organization through which people from different industries work with experts to develop voluntary standards intended to improve healthcare quality.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): A patient care area that provides care to infants who are critically ill. Most NICU patients are under the care of a pediatrician who is a neonatologist.
  • Neonate: A patient who is an infant less than or up to 30 days of age.
  • Nosocomial infection: The term ‘nosocomial’ comes from two Greek words: ‘nosus’ meaning ‘disease’ + ‘komeion’ meaning ‘to take care of’. Hence, nosocomial should apply to any disease contracted by a patient while under medical care. However, the meaning of ‘nosocomial’ has been whittled down over the years and now just refers to hospitals – it is now synonymous with hospital-acquired and refers to any infection that occurs during or after hospitalization that was not present or incubating at the time of the patient’s admission.
  • Pathogen: An agent of disease –that is, a disease producer.  The term pathogen is used most commonly to refer to infectious organisms. These include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  • Permanent Central Line: A central line that is tunneled, including certain dialysis catheters. Includes implantable catheters.
  • Point prevalence: The number of events or persons with a given disease or other attribute during a specified point in time.
  • Population: The total number of inhabitants of a geographic area or the total number of persons in a particular group (e.g., the number of persons engaged in a certain occupation).
  • Prevalence Rate: The proportion of a population that has a particular condition at any given time, whether as a new or chronic case.
  • Prevalence: The number of events (for example, instances of a given disease or other condition) in a given population at a designated time.
  • Rate: An expression of the relative frequency with which an event occurs among a defined population per unit of time, calculated as the number of new cases or deaths during a specified period divided by either person-time or the average (midinterval) population. An example of a rate is: 1 HAI per 10,000 patient days in Hospital X in 2009.
  • Sensitivity: An epidemiologic measure of how often people who do have some condition are correctly identified by a test as having that condition (true positives) instead of as a false negative test result.
  • Specialty Care Area (SCA): A hospital location which includes one of the types below:
    • Bone marrow transplant
    • Solid organ transplant
    • Inpatient acute dialysis
    • Hematology/oncology
    • Long term acute car
  • Surgical Site Infections (SSI) (pdf*): Infections that are directly related to an operative procedure. Some SSIs are minor and only involve the skin or subcutaneous tissue. Other SSIs may be deeper and more serious.
  • Surveillance: The ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data regarding a health-related event for use in public health action to reduce morbidity and mortality and to improve health.
  • Symptom: Any indication of disease noticed or felt by a patient.
  • Temporary Central Line: A central line that is not tunneled.
  • The Joint Commission: An organization that accredits hospitals and other healthcare facilities based on their meeting published standards.
  • Validity: The degree to which a measurement, questionnaire, test, or study or any other data collection tool measures what it is intended to measure.
  • Ventilator- Associated Pneumonia (VAP) (pdf*): A pneumonia that occurs in a patient who was intubated and ventilated at the time of, or within 48 hours before, the onset of the pneumonia.
  • Ventilator: A device that pumps air into the lungs of patients who cannot breathe well on their own.