Centers for Disease Control and Its Role In Infection Control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for studying pathogens and diseases in an effort to prevent their spread. A division of the United States Public Health Department, the CDC has issued a number of guidelines over the past twenty-five years that have enabled health care professionals to practice responsible infection control. As diseases evolve, and as new diseases are introduced into our society, the CDC revises and updates existing guidelines or issues new control measures to contain the spread of infection.

In 1970, the CDC developed a system of seven isolation categories for patients with infectious diseases. This category system included strict isolation, respiratory isolation, protective isolation, enteric precautions, wound and skin precautions, discharge precautions, and blood precautions.

In 1985, the agency released a set of guidelines known as Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions, or simply universal precautions. These infection control practices were written in response to an increase in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and hepatitis B, both bloodborne diseases, and to other infectious diseases as well.

Beginning in 1991, the CDC infection control guidelines were reviewed and subsequently revised. In 1996, a new set of guidelines was released. Standard precautions reflect improved recommendations intended to protect all health care providers, patients, and visitors from a wide range of communicable diseases. At the same time that the CDC issued the new standard precautions, they also released a second tier of precautions called transmission-based precautions. These are intended to be used in addition to standard precautions when caring for specific categories of patients. To understand the evolution and intent of these various CDC infection control guidelines, universal precautions, standard precautions, and transmission-based precautions will be examined in more detail in our medical assistant's blog.