Healthcare Infection Prevention-Long-term care trends bode ill

The graying of America

The explosion in long-term care - and the infectious misadventures that may follow - is occurring as a result of these trends:

• Since 1950, the number of people over 65 years of age in the United States has nearly tripled, from 12.2 million to 36 million.

• To accommodate this growth, the number of nursing homes increased from 16,091 in 1986 to 17,208 in 1996, and the number of beds in these facilities increased from 1.2 million to 1.8 million.

• By 2035, the population of people over 65 years of age will exceed 80 million.

• In 1997, 1.6 million people lived in long-term care facilities; by 2005, this figure will increase to an estimated 5 million.

• Since 3% to 15% of such patients acquire an infection in these facilities each year, the 48,000 to 240,000 infections estimated to have occurred in 1997 will increase to an estimated 150,000 to 750,000 in 2005.1


1. Jarvis WR. Infection control and changing health-care delivery systems. Emerg Infect Dis 2001; 7(2). Web site: jarvis.htm.