Date: 22 February 2012
Title: Surveillance of infection burden in residential aged care facilities

Ching Jou Lim, Susan C McLellan, Allen C Cheng, Joanne M Culton, Sneha N Parikh, Anton Y Peleg* and David C M Kong*
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (5): 327-331.
doi: 10.5694/mja12.10085

Received 12 Jan 2012, accepted 22 Feb 2012



Objectives: To explore the burden of illness associated with infectious syndromes and to measure the associated use of antimicrobials in residential aged care facilities (RACFs).

Design, setting and subjects: Retrospective analysis of data for January 2006 to December 2010 from an infection surveillance system covering residents of four co-located RACFs, with a total of 150 residential care beds, in Melbourne, Victoria.

Main outcome measures: Number of episodes and incidence of health care-associated infection (HCAI); rate of antimicrobial use; prescribing concordance with McGeer criteria for infection; frequency of clinical specimen collection.

Results: There were 1114 episodes of an infectious syndrome over 267 684 occupied bed-days (OBD), affording an average HCAI rate of 4.16 episodes/1000 OBD annually over 5 years (95% CI, 3.92–4.41). The mean rate of antimicrobial use was 7.07 courses/1000 OBD (range, 6.71–7.84). Around 40% of antimicrobial prescribing was for episodes that did not fulfil the McGeer criteria for clinical infection; this included about half of suspected urinary tract and upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), and about one-third of suspected lower respiratory tract and skin infections. Antimicrobials were routinely prescribed for URTI and bronchitis. Of all episodes treated with antimicrobials, 36% had documentation that a clinical specimen was obtained.

Conclusions: The HCAI rate remained relatively stable over time. Routine surveillance and feedback of infection rates to the facilities did not result in a noticeable decrease of infection burden over time. It is of immediate concern that antimicrobials were being prescribed for a large proportion of suspected infections that did not meet criteria for clinical infection. Opportunities exist to further improve the use of antimicrobials in the RACF setting.