The prevalence of viral hepatitis in nursing homes across the United States increased 48 percent between 2006 and 2010, reports a new study by the Columbia School of Nursing and the Research and Development and the RAND Corporation. According to lead researcher Carolyn Herzig, MS, infections in general are a leading cause of death and complications in these facilities.

Researchers analyzed the latest nursing home data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), self-reported over a five-year period. They found that with the exception of tuberculosis, new infections were on the rise across the board.

While urinary tract infections and pneumonia were the most common ailments, infection prevalence increased the most for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Incidents of septicemia, wound infections and multiple drug-resistant organisms also went up during this period.

Researchers also warned that the growing influx of baby boomers into the nursing care system could lead to serious health risks if infection reduction protocols are not established. Born between 1945 and 1965, boomers make up nearly 75 percent of HCV infections in the country. Most do not know they have hep C.