Infection surveillance and HAIs are an important topic, especially given the research demonstrating that up to one-third of infections can be prevented with infection and control surveillance programs. Unfortunately, they don’t make for a very snappy title!

Each year in Australia, there are around 200,000 healthcare associated infections (HAIs). They impose a significant cost on the healthcare system, as well as significantly increasing morbidity for the affected individual. These statistics alone should be reason to carry out infection surveillance as part of your Infection Prevention and Control program.

Joseph Mylotte’s article entitled ‘Nursing home or long-term care facility patients’ references Strausbaugh and Joseph’s (U.S.) data on the incidence, morbidity and mortality of infections in long-term care settings. These estimates suggest that nursing home residents are at greater risk of developing infection than people living in the community who are admitted to hospital. In congregative settings such as aged care residential facilities, elderly, frail and debilitated people are susceptible to endemic infections, such as respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, as well as outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Surveillance of HAIs refers to the monitoring and reporting of these events. Surveillance of HAIs assists in identifying whether there is an infection and what type of infection it is.

Surveillance allows clinicians to measure the effectiveness of strategies implemented to decrease infection rates. Infection rate data should be used in a positive way to improve the quality and safety of residents/patients. Surveillance must be linked to a prevention strategy, and data must be fed back to those who need to know, such as facility management, clinicians, care givers etc.

Surveillance definitions are required to identify if a resident/patient has an infection. While there are several infection surveillance definition criteria, infection definitions specifically designed for use in long-term care facilities were developed by a Canadian consensus committee in the late 1980s, and are referred to as the ‘McGeer criteria’ after the lead author of the group. These definitions were reviewed by a committee of experts in 2010, and in 2012 revised definitions were published. The only substantial outcomes of this review were changes to urinary tract and respiratory tract infection definitions, and the addition of definitions for norovirus and C. difficile infection.

Surveillance is the first important step in identifying an infection, and it leads to actions that result in treating the infection appropriately. It is important in identifying an infection and informing appropriate treatment. Not only that, but it also measures infection prevention and control program success, identifies areas of improvement and informs management’s mandatory reporting mandates.

HAI surveillance is central to Infection Prevention and Control. If you have any questions about surveillance, or you would like to learn more about our iMonitor tool, just click on this link. If you have any other questions or concerns about infection prevention and control, please get in touch with us via our ‘Contact Us‘ page.