Our Performance

Safety - Infection Control FAQ

About Healthcare-Associated Infection

What does "healthcare-associated" mean?

Most infections happen through the spread of infectious microorganisms (bacteria too small for the human eye to see). These microorganisms are found in the community, including at home, school and work. The spread of microorganisms can also happen in a hospital. When a patient gets an infection during their stay in hospital, and did not have the infection before coming to the hospital, this is called a healthcare-associated infection.

What are MRSA, VRE and C.difficile?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and Clostridium difficile (C.difficile) are microorganisms that are common causes of healthcare-associated infection and, in some cases, can cause serious illness.

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How does contact with these microorganisms happen?

MRSA, VRE and C.difficile are spread by person-to-person contact. You can get the microorganisms if you touch an infected person, especially if you do not wash your hands regularly. You can also spread the microorganisms if you touch an object that an infected person has touched and the object is not cleaned before you touch it.

What is the difference between colonization and infection?

Most patients that come into contact with MRSA or VRE become colonized. Colonization means that the microorganisms are in or on your body, but are not causing harm or disease. Unfortunately, some patients that come into contact with MRSA or VRE develop a mild or severe illness. When you get sick from MRSA or VRE, this is called infection rather than colonization.

What is a Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP)?

Ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) is defined as a pneumonia (lung infection) occurring in patients in an intensive care unit (ICU), requiring, external mechanical breathing support (a ventilator) intermittently or continuously, through a breathing tube for more than 48 hours. VAP can develop in patients for many reasons. Because they are relying on an external machine to breathe, their normal coughing, yawning, and deep breath reflexes are suppressed. Furthermore, they may have a depressed immune system, making them more vulnerable to infection. ICU teams have many ways to try to assist patients with these normal breathing reflexes, but despite this, patients are still at risk for developing pneumonia.

What is a Central Line Infection (CLI)?

When a patient requires long-term access to medication or fluids through an IV, a central line is put in place. A central line blood stream infection can occur when bacteria and/or fungi enters the blood stream, causing a patient to become sick. The bacteria can come from a variety of places (e.g., skin, wounds, environment, etc.), though it most often comes from the patient’s skin.

What is a Surgical Site Infection (SSI)?

A surgical site infection (SSI) occurs at the site of a surgical incision. Germs can get into the incision area, and cause an infection. It can develop within 30 days of an operation, or sometimes even up to one year if an implant (such as a knee or hip joint implant) is used.

Infections can be minor, or occasionally they can increase complications that result in a longer length of stay in the hospital, or an increased readmission rate for patients. An important measure to prevent/decrease post-operative surgical site infection is to provide antibiotics within the appropriate time before surgery.

Why is hand hygiene so important?

Hand hygiene is an important practice for health care providers and has a significant impact on reducing the spread of infections in hospitals. Hand hygiene involves everyone in the hospital, including patients and health care providers.

Effective hand hygiene practices in hospitals play a key role in improving patient and provider safety, and in preventing the spread of health care-associated infections.

What is St. Michael's Hospital doing to minimize and control the spread of infection?

We do our best to lower the risk of infection among all patients, visitors and staff. Unfortunately, the spread of microorganisms happens in hospitals and in the community, and we must all work hard to control the problem.

We try and prevent infection and colonization by the following means:

  • Washing hands
  • Keeping all areas clean (environmental cleaning)
  • Keeping equipment clean (sterilization)
  • Using single-use supplies
  • Educating staff, physicians and patients