Prevention and management of infection in healthcare settings

The practices that form the basic measures to prevent transmission of infectious diseases within health care environments are divided into standard and transmission-based precautions.

When a disease is suspected but not confirmed, a symptom-based approach will reduce the risk of transmission to the health care worker and to other patients. For example, if a patient presents with vomiting or diarrhoea or respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing and fever) then the appropriate precautions should be implemented immediately, rather than waiting for a definitive diagnosis.

Standard precautions

The use of standard precautions for all patients is the primary strategy for minimising the transmission of infections in health care settings. It is essential that standard precautions are always applied when caring for any patient regardless of their infectious disease status. This is becoming more important as the prevalence of unidentified carriage of multidrug-resistant organism (MRO) in community settings increases.

The practices that form part of standard precautions include:

Transmission-based precautions

Transmission-based precautions are applied in addition to standard precautions for patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with specific organisms. The transmission-based precautions required to manage these infections varies according to the route of transmission (airborne, droplet or contact).

The specific transmission-based precautions may involve the use of:

  • isolation facilities (single room or negative pressure room)
  • surgical masks for droplet transmission
  • additional respiratory protection, such as the use of high filtration particulate filter respirators (i.e. P2/N95 or equivalent respirators)
  • disposable gowns, gloves and eye protection on entry to the room

Details of these requirements are found in local facility procedure manuals, state guidelines for management of multi-drug resistant organisms, and the Australian Guidelines for the prevention and control of infection in healthcare.


SA Health


The Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care also has a number of generic resources available from their website, such as a set of standardised signage on standard and transmission-based precautions, and a sequence for putting on and removing PPE.

Education and courses are available from a number of providers including SA Health elearning, the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), The Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC) and a number of universities. See the SA Health Infection Prevention and Control Education webpage.

Further information

For further information on prevention and management of infections in healthcare settings, contact the SA Health's Infection Control Service.

Clinical information in this section