Standard Precautions

Isolation precautions are used to reduce transmission of microorganisms in healthcare and residential settings. These measures are designed to protect patients/residents, staff, and visitors from contact with infectious agents. There are two categories of isolation precautions: standard precautions and transmission-based precautions.  In 2007, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) published recommendations to for how and when to apply standard and transmission-based precautions in healthcare settings, including a table of selected infections/conditions and the type and duration of precautions that are recommended.

Infection prevention strategies are geared toward breaking the “chain of infection” or “chain of transmission” . In order for an infection to occur, each link of the chain must be connected. Breaking any link of the chain can stop the transmission of infection.

The six links of the chain of infection are:

  • Infectious disease (any microorganism such as a bacterium or virus that can cause disease)
  • Reservoir (place where an infectious disease lives, thrives, and reproduces)
  • Portal of exit (place where the organism leaves the reservoir)
  • Mode of transmission (how an infectious disease transfers from one person or object to another person)
  • Portal of entry (place where the infectious disease enters the body of a susceptible host)
  • Susceptible host (a person at risk for developing an infection)

In healthcare facilities, it is also important to create a culture of safety and to encourage effective communication between healthcare providers, patients, and family members to help prevent infection. Partnering to Heal is a computer-based, video-simulation training program developed by the Department of Health and Human Services that highlights these themes of communication and creation of a patient safety culture. Users assume the identity of one of five main characters and make decisions about preventing HAIs in the hospital setting.


Standard precautions are a set of basic infection prevention practices intended to prevent transmission of infectious diseases from one person to another.  Because we do not always know if a person has an infectious disease, standard precautions are applied to every person every time to assure that transmission of disease does not occur. These precautions were formerly known as “universal precautions.”


Hand Hygiene

Personal Protective Equipment

Cleaning of the Environment

Safe Injection Practices

Patient Resources

Disinfection and Sterilization

Bloodborne Pathogens

Vaccination Information for Infection Preventionists

Occupational Health Tools and Resources

Patient/Resident Care Equipment

  • Handle in a manner that prevents transfer of germs to others and to the environment.
  • Wear gloves if equipment is visibly contaminated.
  • Perform hand hygiene.

Appropriate patient/resident placement

  • Prioritize for placement in a single-patient/resident room if the patient/resident is at increased risk of transmission, is likely to contaminate the environment, does not maintain appropriate hand hygiene, or is at increased risk of acquiring infection or developing adverse outcome following infection.

Handling of textiles/laundry

  • Handle in a manner that prevents transfer of microorganisms to others and to the environment.

Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette

  • Maintain spatial separation (at least 3 feet) or wear a surgical mask, if the person is able to tolerate it.
  • Cover mouth/nose when coughing/sneezing.
  • Use tissues and promptly dispose of them in trash.
  • Perform hand hygiene after soiling hands with respiratory secretions.