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Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)

Microscope image of a pathogen

What are HAIs?

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that are acquired by patients within a healthcare setting while they are receiving care. These infections may occur in all types of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, nursing homes, or rehabilitation facilities. HAIs are largely preventable, yet are the most common complication of healthcare and can cause significant morbidity and mortality. A recent study estimated that on any given day, approximately one out of every 25 inpatients in U.S. acute care hospitals has at least one HAI1. This is most likely an underestimate of the total burden of HAIs since the study did not take into account infections outside of acute care hospitals (i.e., nursing homes) or infections diagnosed after discharge. HAIs are also costly and add avoidable costs to the already overburdened U.S. healthcare system. A 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report estimated the annual medical costs of HAIs to U.S. hospitals to be between $28 and $45 billion dollars2.


DC DOH HAI Program 

In 2010, the DC HAI Program was established within the District of Columbia Department of Health (DC DOH) Division of Epidemiology-Disease Surveillance and Investigation (DEDSI) in response to a growing recognition of the important role of public health departments in ensuring patient safety and quality services in DC healthcare facilities. A state HAI prevention plan was developed to identify priority prevention targets, coordinate and implement prevention activities, and report on progress towards reductions in the number of HAI cases. Both surveillance and prevention activities are necessary to reduce the number of patients with HAIs. Our program monitors HAI infection rates and uses the data to promote interventions to prevent infections, provides support and technical assistance to healthcare facilities during outbreaks, and collaborates with partners to develop and implement prevention activities to drive quality improvement.


Additional Information

For the Public

For Healthcare Providers and Facilities


2Scott RD. The Direct Medical Costs of Healthcare-Associated Infections in U.S. Hospitals and the Benefits of Prevention, 2009. (accessed April 7, 2009). [PDF]