An outbreak of hepatitis B virus infection occurred in a nursing facility; it involved 31 patients with sequelae of cerebral vascular accidents (15 men and 16 women; mean age, 77.4 +/- 9.3 yr). HBsAg disappeared within 6 mo in 9 patients and persisted during an observation period of more than 6 mo in 13; the remaining 9 patients were lost to follow-up while they carried HBsAg. Thus 13 of 22 patients followed (59%) became HBsAg carriers. We amplified a part of the S gene (436 nucleotides) with polymerase chain reaction on hepatitis B virus DNA from 12 randomly selected patients. The sequences of nine patients were the same as that of a nursing assistant who was an HBsAg carrier and suspected as the source of infection; it differed by only 1 or 2 (< 0.5%) nucleotides from those of the remaining three patients. Between the group of nine patients with transient HBV infection and the 13 patients with persistent HBV infection, we found no differences in age or sex or in parameters of nutrition or immunocompetence. These results indicate a high incidence of HBV carrier state in the elderly.