Healthcare-Associated Infections: About

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections you can get in health care facilities while receiving care. You can get these infections in any health care setting. Any type of procedure can make you more vulnerable and put you at risk of getting HAIs.

Medical devices can also put you at risk of getting an infection. These devices include central lines (a tube placed in a large vein to allow access to the bloodstream and supply medicine), urinary catheters (a tube placed in the bladder to drain urine), and ventilators (a device that moves air into and out of the lungs).

If you are a patient, or are caring for others after a procedure, there are steps you can take to prevent getting HAIs.

For information on statewide HAIs in specific hospitals, visit the Wisconsin Hospital Association CheckPoint® and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Hospital Compare websites.

A man in a wheelchair holding hands with his wife and a healthcare provider standing behind, all smiling

What are the different types of HAIs?

Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system, which includes the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidney. UTIs are the most commonly reported HAIs. About 75% of UTIs in health care settings are related to a urinary catheter. A CAUTI may happen when bacteria travel along a urinary catheter, which can lead to an infection in the kidney or bladder. More information on CAUTIs can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection page.

Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)

A CLABSI may happen when bacteria travel along a central line and enter the blood, causing a bloodstream infection. Central lines must be put in correctly and kept clean to prevent an infection. More information on CLABSIs can be found on the CDC Central Line-associated Bloodstream Infection page.

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)

C. difficile is a bacterium that can cause illnesses, such as diarrhea or inflammation of the colon, usually after using antibiotics. For more information, please visit our Clostridium difficile page.

Multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO)

MDROs are a group of organisms that are resistant to antibiotics. There are many different MDROs. For specific information about each MDRO, please visit the pages listed below.

Surgical site infection (SSI)

SSIs are infections you can get after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. They usually happen within 30 days after surgery. Some SSIs occur only on the skin. Others can be more serious, and can occur in tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted materials. Many SSIs can be treated with antibiotics. For more information, please visit our Surgical Site Infection Prevention page.

Common symptoms of SSIs:

  • Fever
  • Delayed healing of the wound
  • Redness, pain, tenderness, warmth, or swelling around the area where you had surgery
  • Discharge of pus or cloudy fluid from your surgical wound

Doctor holding x-ray with patient who has a knee injury

SSI: Do's and Don'ts
  • Tell your doctor about any other medical problems you have before the surgery.
  • Ask your provider, family, and friends to clean their hands. Always make sure you clean your hands before and after caring for your wound.
  • Contact your doctor if you have any symptoms of an infection after your surgery.
  • Don't smoke. Patients who smoke get more infections. Ask your doctor about how you can quit before surgery.
  • Don't shave before surgery. If someone tries to shave you with a razor before surgery, speak up.
  • Don't let family and friends who visit you touch the surgical wound or dressings.

How can I prevent getting an HAI?

There are certain steps you can take to prevent HAIs if you are a patient, or if you are providing care to a patient.

Some general prevention measures include:

  • Wash your hands often, and make sure your family members and friends do as well.
  • If you do not see your health care provider clean their hands before providing care, speak up and ask them to do so.
  • Ask your health care provider what specific steps you can take to prevent infection before, during, and after your visit.
  • Be at a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu every year.

For more information on the prevention of specific HAIs, please visit the Patient and Family Resources section below.

 Patient and Family Resources

DHS Resources

  • Infection Prevention and You (PDF) : A tri-fold handout from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology on staying safe when in the hospital.
  • Wash Your Hands!, P-01710 (multiple languages): A fact sheet on proper handwashing techniques.
C. difficile

Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) Fact Sheet, P-42039 (PDF): A fact sheet on C. difficile infections with general information and prevention measures.


What Can I do to Prevent an Infection After Surgery, P-01228 (PDF): Information for patients on useful steps to take before and after surgery to prevent SSIs.


Vancomycin-intermediate/resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VISA/VRSA) Disease Fact Sheet, P-00356 (multiple languages): A fact sheet on VISA/VRSA with transmission and symptom information.


Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci Fact Sheet, P-42150 (multiple languages): A fact sheet on VRE with information on disease transmission and prevention measures.

CDC Resources

Questions about HAIs? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-7711 | Fax: 608-266-0049

Last Revised: April 19, 2021