Infection prevention and control

SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands 5 May 2019

Clean care for all – it's in your hands
WHO calls on everyone to be inspired by the global movement to achieve universal health coverage (UHC), i.e. achieving better health and well-being for all people at all ages, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. Infection Prevention and Control, including hand hygiene, is critical to achieve UHC as it is a practical and evidence-based approach with demonstrated impact on quality of care and patient safety across all levels of the health system.

Hand hygiene: a simple act that grows into big changes

Simple infection prevention actions such as hand hygiene are critical to ensure patient safety in several health care delivery situations. Through integrated strategies, infection prevention and control also significantly contributes to other priorities such as stopping the spread of antimicrobial resistance and outbreaks. Overall, hand hygiene and infection prevention and control ensure quality of care in the context of universal health coverage.

IPC core components

Effective infection prevention and control (IPC) is the cornerstone for the delivery of safe, effective, high-quality health care. WHO's IPC Global Unit developed recommendations identifying the core components of effective IPC programmes, to help countries and health care facilities develop action plans to prevent current and future threats. These threats, like antibiotic resistance germs, the Ebola outbreak, and weak health systems, can be directly addressed through implementation of the 8 core components of IPC outlined by WHO.

Critical role of infection prevention and control

No one should catch an infection while receiving health care, yet, hundreds of millions of people are affected every year; this is avoidable. And this alarming figure affects those providing health care too. Infection prevention and control (IPC) is a practical, evidence-based approach which prevents patients and health workers from being harmed and ensures quality health care. It involves practising WHO hand hygiene recommendations, having a clean and hygienic environment, monitoring infections and having action plans to reduce their frequency, never re-using needles and syringes, using antibiotics but only when truly needed, to reduce the risk of resistance. A large proportion of infections are caused by antibiotic resistant organisms; there is global consensus that urgent action is needed.

Surgical site infections

Surgical site infections (SSIs) occur following surgery, in the part of the body where the surgery took place, and are the most common type of health care-associated infection. The bacteria which cause SSIs can be resistant to commonly-used antibiotics and therefore threaten the lives of millions of patients every year. Ensuring that a range of preventive measures are in place will help stop the spread of germs, antibiotic resistance and reduce SSIs. The key measures include; appropriate skin disinfection before incision, ensuring that all surgical equipment is sterile, maintaining asepsis in the operating room, appropriate and timely antibiotic prophylaxis and the right surgical hand scrub.

Injection safety

Injections are among the most common health care procedures. Every year at least 16 billion injections are administered worldwide with approximately 90% given in curative care. But in some countries, up to 70% of the injections given are unnecessary and are furthermore administered in an unsafe way, by reusing syringes and needles. This causes the transmission of bloodborne viruses. The WHO injection safety campaign called Get the point – Make smart injection choices, aims to make injection practices safer for patients, health workers and the community.

fact buffet

Health care-associated infections

10%1 in 10 patients get an infection while receiving care.

Read more about health care-associated infections

Surgical site infections

50%More than 50% of surgical site infections can be antibiotic-resistant.

Read more about surgical site infections

Impact of infection prevention and control

30%Effective infection prevention and control reduces health care-associated infections by at least 30%.

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Infection prevention and control global unit
Service Delivery and Safety
World Health Organization
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1211 Geneva 27