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SHEA 2024 Highlights: Dr. Danielle Zerr Explores Environmental Pathogen Control and Patient-Centered Care Strategies

Dr. Danielle Zerr, distinguished faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine, took center stage at the 2024 Society of Epidemiology of America (SHEA) conference. She presented paramount issues in infection prevention, stressing the importance of innovative strategies to handle healthcare challenges, and promoting patient and family-centered care to mitigate environmental risks. Dr. Zerr elaborated on the need for tailored infection control measures, particularly in pediatric settings, advocating for a family-centric approach.

These presentations were a few among many insightful discussions held at the SHEA conference in Houston, Texas, which took place from April 16 to 19, 2024. Dr. Zerr, division head and professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine, also serves as an affiliate investigator at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the medical director of infection prevention at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her professionalism and vast experience paved the way for two compelling presentations titled ‘Reducing The Risk of Environmental Pathogens: Strategies for Environmental Surveillance and Enhanced Cleaning within Healthcare Settings,’ and ‘Family-Centered Infection Control Precautions for Respiratory Viruses in Pediatric Settings.’
Dr. Zerr’s emphasis was on the environmental pathogens within healthcare settings, highlighting three different environmental areas: surfaces, water, and air. She focused on the organisms that could potentially cause infections in these areas and suggested mitigation strategies to reduce patient risk.

She cited water as an example, elucidating the significance of Legionella and resistant gram-negative bacterial organisms like Pseudomonas, which carry substantial morbidity and mortality risks, especially for immunocompromised patients. To counter these threats, Dr. Zerr underscored the necessity of a comprehensive water management program, the importance of surveillance, and strategies to mitigate risks associated with problematic areas identified by the program. Moreover, she discussed strategies for reducing the risk of ‘splashback’ within hospital settings.

In addition to environmental pathogens, Dr. Zerr presented the concept of family-centered infection control precautions for respiratory viruses in pediatric settings. Here, she reviewed the history, goals, and necessities for patient or family-centered care. Although she acknowledged the sometimes conflicting needs for flexibility in patient-centered care and strict rule adherence for safety, she argued that there are ample opportunities to practice and promote both patient-centered care and family-centered care.

Recent crises have underscored the need for stronger infection prevention practices and improved cleaning regimens to combat growing threats from multidrug-resistant organisms. Healthcare facilities have been forced to address these threats or risk compromising patient trust and their own financial sustainability. Some initiatives have involved fostering partnerships between public health authorities and healthcare settings, while others have required greater adherence to established guidelines regarding treatment and prevention methods. The future of infection control, then, requires a multifaceted approach with an emphasis on collaboration, adherence, and relentless innovation.


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