The Centers for Disease Control estimate that approximately 1.7 million healthcare associated infections occurred in U.S. hospitals in 2002 and were associated with 99,000 deaths. CDC also estimates that HAIs add as much as $20 billion to health care costs each year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled a plan that establishes a set of five-year national prevention targets to reduce and possibly eliminate health care-associated infections (HAIs).

Health care-associated infections are infections that patients acquire while undergoing medical treatment or surgical procedures. These infections are largely preventable.

The Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections lists a number of areas in which HAIs can be prevented, such as surgical site infections. The plan also outlines cross-agency efforts to save lives and reduce health care costs through expanded HAI prevention efforts.

"This plan will serve as our roadmap on how the department addresses this important public health and patient safety issue," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "This collaborative interagency plan will help the nation build a safer, more affordable health care system."

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