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National Infection Prevention and Control Manual

National Infection Prevention and Control Manual




A graze. A minor wound in which the surface of the skin or a mucous membrane has been worn away by rubbing or scraping.

Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs)

Certain medical and patient care activities that can result in the release of airborne particles (aerosols). AGPs can create a risk of airborne transmission of infections that are usually only spread by droplet transmission.

See Appendix 11, footnote 3 for further information


See Airborne particles

Airborne (aerosol) transmission

The spread of infection from one person to another by airborne particles (aerosols) containing infectious agents.

Airborne particles (aerosols)

Very small particles that may contain infectious agents. They can remain in the air for long periods of time and can be carried over long distances by air currents. Airborne particles can be released when a person coughs or sneezes, and during aerosol generating procedures (AGPs).

Alcohol based hand rub (ABHR)

A gel, foam or liquid containing alcohol that is rubbed into the hands as an alternative to washing hands with soap and water.

Alert organism

An organism that is identified as being potentially significant for infection prevention and control practices. Examples of alert organisms include Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C.diff) and Group A Streptococcus.



Refers to the alveoli which are the small air sacs in the lungs. Alveoli are located at the ends of the air passageways in the lungs, and are the site at which gas exchange takes place.


An agent that kills microorganisms, or prevents them from growing. Antibiotics and disinfectants are antimicrobial agents.

Antimicrobial hand wipes

Hand wipes that are moistened with an antimicrobial solution/agent at a concentration sufficient to inactivate microorganisms and/or temporarily suppress their growth.

Aseptic Technique

A healthcare procedure designed to minimise the risks of exposing the person being cared for to pathogenic micro-organisms during simple (e.g dressing wounds) and complex care procedures (e.g. surgical procedures).


Not showing any symptoms of disease but where an infection may be present.


Machine used for sterilising re-usable equipment using superheated steam under pressure.

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Blood Borne Viruses (BBV)

Viruses carried or transmitted by blood, for example Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Body Fluids

Fluid produced by the body such as urine, faeces, vomit or diarrhoea.

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Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE)

A group of bacteria that have become extremely resistant to antibiotics including those called carbapenems.

Care areas/environment

Any place where care is carried out. This includes hospital wards, treatment rooms, care homes and care at home.

Care staff

Any person who cares for patients, including healthcare support workers and nurses.

Central Decontamination Unit (CDU)

A large, centralised facility for the decontamination and re-processing of re-usable medical equipment e.g. surgical instruments.

Central Vascular Catheter (CVC)

An intravenous catheter that is inserted directly into a large vein in the neck, chest or groin to allow intravenous drugs and fluids to be given and to allow blood monitoring.


A chemical that is used for disinfecting, fumigating and bleaching.


The removal of any dirt, blood, sickness, etc by use of an appropriate cleaning agent such as detergent.

Clinical setting

Any area where a patient is observed or treatment is carried out such as a treatment room or hospital ward.

Clinical wash hand basin

A sink designated for hand washing in clinical areas.

Clostridium difficile (C.diff)

An infectious agent (bacterium) that can cause mild to severe diarrhoea which in some cases can lead to gastro-intestinal complications and death.

Cohort area

A bay or ward in which two or more patients (cohort) with the same confirmed infection are placed. A cohort area should be physically separate from other patients.

Cohort nursing

A dedicated team of healthcare staff who care for a cohort of patients, and do not care for any other patients.


Placing a group of two or more patients (a cohort) with the same confirmed infection in the same room or area.


The presence of bacteria on a body surface (such as the skin, mouth, intestines or airway) that does not cause disease in the person or signs of infection.


Mucous membranes that cover the front of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids.

Contact transmission

The spread of infectious agents from one person to another by contact. When spread occurs through skin-to-skin contact, this is called direct contact transmission. When spread occurs via a contaminated object, this is called indirect contact transmission.


Dirty, soiled or stained.


Spread of infection from one person to another.

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Removing, or killing pathogens on an item or surface to make it safe for handling, re-use or disposal, by cleaning, disinfection and/or sterilisation.


A chemical cleansing agent that can dissolve oils and remove dirt.


3 or more loose or liquid bowel movements in 24 hours or more often than is normal for the individual.

Direct contact transmission

Spread of infectious agents from one person to another by direct skin-to-skin contact.


A chemical used to reduce the number of infectious agents from an object or surface to a level that means they are not harmful to health.


A process, for example using a chemical disinfectant, to reduce the number of infectious agents from an object or surface to a level that means they are not harmful to your health.

Domestic waste

Waste produced in the care setting that is similar to waste produced in the home.


A small drop of moisture, larger than airborne particle, that may contain infectious agents. Droplets can be released when a person talks, coughs or sneezes, and during some medical or patient care procedures such as open suctioning and cough induction by chest physiotherapy. It is thought that droplets can travel around 1 metre (3 feet).

Droplet transmission

The spread of infection from one person to another by droplets containing infectious agents.

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An agent used to soothe the skin and make it soft and supple. 


A room containing a sink and toilet and sometimes a shower/wetroom or bath.


Waste products produced by the body such as urine and faeces (bowel movements).


The condition of being exposed to something that may have a harmful effect such as an infectious agent.

Exposure Prone Procedures (EPPs)

Certain medical and patient care procedures where there is a risk that injury to the healthcare worker may result in exposure of the patient’s open tissues to the healthcare worker’s blood e.g the healthcare worker’s gloved hands are in contact with sharp instruments, needle tips or sharp tissues inside a patient’s body.

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Respiratory protection that is worn over the nose and mouth designed to protect the wearer from inhaling hazardous substances, including airborne particles (aerosols). FFP stands for filtering facepiece. There are three categories of FFP respirator: FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3. An FFP3 respirator or hood provides the highest level of protection, and is the only category of respirator legislated for use in UK healthcare settings.

Fit Testing

A method of checking that a tight-fitting facepiece respirator fits the wearer and seals adequately to their face. This process helps identify unsuitable facepieces that should not be used.


A term applied to fabrics that resist liquid penetration, often used interchangeably with 'fluid-repellent' when describing the properties of protective clothing or equipment.

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General practitioner (your family doctor)

Group 4 Infections

Definition taken from the HSE Approved list of biological agents

Group 4 infections cause severe human disease and is a serious hazard to employees; it is likely to spread to the community and there is usually no effective prophylaxis or treatment available.



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Hand Hygiene

The process of decontaminating your hands using either alcohol based hand rub or liquid soap and water.

Health Protection Team (HPT)

Health Protection Team (HPT) – A team of healthcare professionals whose role it is to protect the health of the local population and limit the risk of them becoming exposed to infection and environmental dangers. Every NHS board has a HPT.

Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI)

Infections that occur as a result of medical care, or treatment, in any healthcare setting.

Healthcare Waste

Waste produced as a result of healthcare activities for example soiled dressings, sharps.

Hygiene Waste

Waste that is produced from personal care. In care settings this includes feminine hygiene products, incontinence products and nappies, catheter and stoma bags. Hygiene waste may cause offence due to the presence of recognisable healthcare waste items or body fluids. It is usually assumed that hygiene waste is not hazardous or infectious.


A chlorine-based disinfectant such as bleach

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To provide immunity to a disease by giving a vaccination.

Immunocompromised patient/individual

Any person whose immune response is reduced or deficient, usually because they have a disease or are undergoing treatment. People who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to infection.


Cannot be penetrated by liquid.


A multidisciplinary group with responsibility for investigating and managing the incident.

Indirect contract transmission

The spread of infectious agents from one person to another via a contaminated object.


Invasion of the body by a harmful organism or infectious agent such as a virus, parasite or bacterium.

Infectious agent

Any organism, such as a virus, parasite, or bacterium, that is capable of invading body tissues, multiplying, and causing disease

Infectious Diseases of High Consequence (IDHC)

An Infectious Disease of high consequence (IDHC) typically causes severe symptoms requiring a high level of care and a high case-fatality rate, there may not be effective prophylaxis or treatment.  IDHC are transmissible from human to human (contagious) and capable of causing large-scale epidemics or pandemics. 

Invasive device

A device which penetrates the body, either through a body cavity or through the surface of the body. Central Venous Catheters (central line), Peripheral Arterial Lines and Urinary Catheters are examples of invasive devices.

Invasive procedure

A medical/healthcare procedure that penetrates or breaks the skin or enters a body cavity.


Physically separating patients to prevent the spread of infection.

Isolation Suite/Room

An isolation suite comprises a single-bed room, en-suite facilities and a ventilated entry lobby.

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Microorganism (microbe)

Any living thing (organism) that is too small to be seen by the naked eye. Bacteria, viruses and some parasites are microorganisms.

Mode of transmission

The way that microorganisms spread from one person to another. The main modes or routes of transmission are airborne (aerosol) transmission, droplet transmission and contact transmission.


Strains of the infectious agent (bacterium) Staphylococcus aureus that are resistant to many of the antibiotics commonly used to treat infections.

Mucocutaneous exposure

An incident in which the mucous membranes (e.g mouth, nose, eyes) are exposed to blood/other body fluid

Mucous membranes/mucosa

The surfaces lining the cavities of the body that are exposed to the environment such as the lining of the mouth and nose.

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Needle safety device

Any device designed to reduce the risk of injury from needles. This may include needle-free devices or mechanisms on a needle, such as an automated resheathing device, that cover the needle immediately after use.


A synthetic rubber material used to make non-latex gloves.

Non-intact skin

Skin that is broken by cuts, abrasions, dermatitis, chapped skin, eczema etc.

Non-intact skin exposure

An incident in which non-intact skin is exposed to blood or body fluids.

Non-sterile procedure

Care procedure that does not need to be undertaken in conditions that are free from bacteria or other microorganisms.

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Occupational exposure

Exposure of healthcare workers or care staff to blood or body fluids in the course of their work.


Any living thing that can grow and reproduce, such as a plant, animal, fungus or bacterium.


When two or more people have the same infection, or more people than expected have the same infection.  The cases will be linked by a place and a time period.

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Any disease-producing infectious agent.

Percutaneous injury

An injury caused by a sharp instrument or object such as a needle or scalpel, cutting or puncturing the skin.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Equipment a person wears to protect themselves from risks to their health or safety, including exposure to infections e.g. disposable gloves and disposable aprons.

PAG, Problem Assessment Group

A group that is convened by IPCT/HPT to determine and assess if further action relating to a Healthcare Incident/Outbreak/Data Exceedance is required i.e IMT.

The outcome may be:

  • HIIAT Green - continue to monitor
  • HIIAT Amber/Red - IMT required

Fever. Rise in body temperature above the normal level >37.2°.

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To put a needle or other sharp object back into its plastic sheath or cap. Also known as ‘re-sheathing’.

Respiratory droplets

A small droplet, such as a particle of moisture released from the mouth during coughing, sneezing, or speaking.

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

There are two main types of RPE: respirators and breathing apparatus.

  • Respirators are devices worn over the nose and mouth or head and are designed to filter the air breathed in to protect the wearer from inhaling hazardous substances, including airborne particles (aerosols).
  • Breathing apparatus provides a supply of breathing quality air from an external source such as a cylinder or an air compressor. The most commonly used item of RPE in healthcare settings is an FFP3 respirator.
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Safer sharp

A medical sharps device which has been designed to incorporate a feature or mechanism that minimises and/or prevents the risk of accidental injury.  Other terms include (but are not limited to) safety devices, safety-engineered devices and safer needle devices.

Sanitary fittings

Pieces of furniture that are in a bathroom, such as a toilet, bath etc.


Any body fluid that is produced by a cell or gland such as saliva or mucous.


Physically separating or isolating from other people.


A ‘sharp’ is a device or instrument  used in healthcare settings such as needles, lancets and scalpels which are necessary for the exercise of specific healthcare activities and are able to cut, prick and/or have the potential to cause injury.


Sharps incident

A type of percutaneous injury caused by a sharp instrument or device which cuts or penetrates the skin. 

Sharps injury

See percutaneous injury.

Significant occupational exposure

A percutaneous, mucocutaneous exposure or non-intact skin (abrasions, cuts, eczema) exposure to blood/other body fluids from a source that is known (or later found to be) positive for a bloodborne virus infection.

Significant sharps incident

An incident which involves a used needle that has exposed, or may have exposed, the employee to blood/body fluids.


A form that some types of bacteria take under certain environmental conditions. Spores can survive for long periods of time and are very resistant to heat, drying and chemicals.


Free from live bacteria or other microorganisms

Sterile procedure

Care procedure that is undertaken in conditions that are free from bacteria or other microorganisms.


The procedure of making some object free of all germs, live bacteria or other microorganisms (usually by heat or chemical means).

Surgical face mask

A disposable fluid-resistant mask worn over the nose and mouth to protect the mucous membranes of the wearer’s nose and mouth from splashes and infectious droplets and also to protect patients.  When recommended for infection control purposes a 'surgical face mask' typically denotes a fluid-resistant (Type IIR) surgical mask.


Way of closing bag by tying in a loop and securing with a zip tie to make a handle.

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Terminal decontamination

Cleaning/decontamination of an area or room following transfer/discharge of patient or when they are no longer considered infectious to ensure the area safe for the next patient or for the person to go back into their room in a care home setting

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Vascular access devices

Any medical instrument used to access a patient’s veins or arteries such as a Central Venous Catheter or peripheral vascular catheter.

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A-Z of Terms