Brief Modern-Era History of Infection Prevention

  • 1946 – The Communicable Disease Center (Later changed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is founded with the primary tasks of field investigation, training, and control of communicable diseases and encouragement of the development of formal infection control programs.
  • 1951 – The Joint Commission is founded with the goal of continuously improving safety and effective health care for the public.
  • 1965 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiates a research project known as the Comprehensive Hospital Infections Project (CHIP). Eight community hospitals across the country served as the base for the development of modern surveillance and infection control techniques.
  • 1970 – The CDC establishes the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) System; now named the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and used by nearly all infection preventionists across the country to report and track nosocomial infections. Agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) use the data to observe hospital performance and inform payment decisions, and agencies such as local health departments use the data to determine where to focus their prevention efforts.
  • 1972 – The first professional society for those practicing infection control was organized as the Association for Practitioners in Infection Control (APIC); now named the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, APIC now boasts more than 15,000 members, all seeking to reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
  • 1974 – CDC undertook a nationwide study known as the Study on the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control, or the SENIC Project. This study was a very thorough assessment of infection control effectiveness in 338 hospitals with and without CDC-style infection control programs. Final study results determined that hospitals with infection control programs experienced significantly lower rates of HAIs than did their counterparts without these programs.
  • 1976 – The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, now named The Joint Commission), established the first accreditation standards for infection control.
  • 1980 – APIC approves education standards for certification, through the APIC Certification Association (APICCA), and changed its name in 1982 to the Certification Board of Infection Control (CIBC). The organization is now called the Certification Board of Infection Control & Epidemiology (still CBIC) but is a separate organization from APIC.  CBIC provides the official CIC® certification designation.
  • 1986 – International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) was established by Executive Order and spearheaded by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. IIPW is recognized each year in October.
  • 1991 – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established the Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee; now known as the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). HICPAC is a federal advisory committee chartered to provide advice and guidance to CDC regarding the practice of infection control and strategies for surveillance, prevention, and control of healthcare-associated infections, antimicrobial resistance, and related events.
  • 1999 – The Institute of Medicine’s report, To Err is Human, revealed that thousands of patients were injured or died in hospitals each year due to medical error. HAIs were recognized as the leading cause of preventable harm.
  • 2002 – Four states (Illinois, Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania) began to mandate that health-care facilities report HAIs to the public. Currently, at least 35 states and the District of Columbia require facilities to report HAI data into NHSN.
  • 2005-2006 – Two research projects seeking to reduce central line-associated infections (CLABSIs) were published. One study joined the CDC and the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, and the other study brought together researchers from Johns Hopkins University Hospital and the Michigan Hospital Association. Both studies found a 65% reduction in CLABIs by implementing relatively simple interventions.
  • 2008 – Congress mandates CMS to stop providing increased payments to hospitals for the care of patients with HAIs. CMS worked with CDC to determine which HAIs were “reasonably prevented.”
  • 2010 – Congress incorporated HAI prevention into the Value Based Purchasing program of the Affordable Care Act. The first HAI for mandatory reporting was CLABSIs.
  • 2013 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, is published in 2013. Using conservative estimates, the CDC determined that antibiotic-resistant organisms are responsible for more than 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths per year in the United States, at a direct cost of $20 billion. This publication led to:
    • CDC’s Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs
    • National Quality Partner’s Playbook: Antibiotic Stewardship in Acute Care
    • CMS’s proposed infection control conditions-of-participation rule that requires antimicrobial stewardship programs in all acute and critical access hospitals (pending final rule in 2019)
    • Joint Commission Antimicrobial Stewardship Standard MM.09.01.01
  • 2019 – SARS-CoV-2 worldwide pandemic begins

For an excellent review of the history of infection control from medieval to post-World War II eras, read:

Smith PWWatkins KHewlett AInfection control through the agesAm J Infect Control. 2012 Feb; 40(1):35-42.