Nursing Home Infection Rates Rose

Pneumonia, hepatitis and other bacterial infection rates increased between 2006 and 2010

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As people age, nursing homes are often a good option for around-the-clock care. But new research found that nursing home patients faced an increasing risk for infections.

In a five-year review, researchers found that infection rates were on the rise for conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia and wound infections, among others.

The study authors said taking simple steps can prevent infections.

Lead author Carolyn Herzig, MS, of the School of Nursing at Columbia University in New York, said in a press statement that infections are a leading cause of deaths and complications for people living in nursing homes.

Herzig and colleagues reviewed nursing home data from Medicare and Medicaid between 2006 and 2010. Herzig presented the findings Oct. 8 at the infectious diseases conference ID Week in Philadelphia. The research has not yet been published.

The study authors found that UTIs were the most common type of infection. The number of UTIs increased by 1 percent during the study period.

UTIs are caused by bacteria and most often start in the bladder. The infection can affect the bladder, kidneys, urethra and other parts of the urinary tract. Symptoms include pain during urination, cloudy urine and pressure in the stomach.

Caregivers can help nursing home patients go to the bathroom more often to prevent UTIs. They can also provide more frequent diaper changes.

Pneumonia cases increased by 11 percent during the study period. Pneumonia is a lung infection that can make it hard for patients to breathe.

Pneumonia can spread through the air or contact with infected people or surfaces. The authors said good hand hygiene could cut the risk of pneumonia.

“When you walk into a nursing home for the first time, you should easily spot hand sanitizer dispensers or hand-washing stations,” Herzig said. “If you don’t see this, it’s an indication that infection control and prevention may be lacking at the facility.”

The study authors also found an 18 percent increase in cases of multiple drug-resistant organisms (MDROs). MDROs, like medicine-resistant Staph infections, have adapted to the antibiotics used to fight them. This resistance makes treatment harder.

Cases of viral hepatitis increased the most, at 48 percent, the study authors noted. Hepatitis is a liver infection that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and a loss of appetite.

To reduce MDRO risk, the authors suggested routine screening for nursing home patients. Patients with resistant infections should be isolated, the authors said.

“Unless we can improve infection prevention and control in nursing homes, this problem is only going to get worse as the baby boomers age and people are able to live longer with increasingly complex, chronic diseases," Herzig said.

The National Institute of Nursing Research funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 8, 2014
Last Updated:
October 9, 2014