Our highlights from SHEA Spring Conference


20th April 2022

Events and Exhibitions

In today’s article, our Clinical Consultant, Martin Kiernan, shares his highlights from Society for Healthcare Epidemiology for America’s Spring Conference.

Last week, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology for America (SHEA) held it’s first face-to-face conference for over two years in Colorado Springs. Attracting over 1,100 delegates from 24 countries, the three-day event showcased the latest science and as ever, the abstracts presented gave a hint of research findings that will be published in a longer form in the not-too-distant future.

What happens at SHEA Spring Conference?

The annual SHEA Spring Conference has three components:

  1. The main conference
  2. An antibiotic stewardship-related strand
  3. The annual running of the SHEA Epidemiology Course for trainees.

SHEA Epidemiology Course

This course involves key topic experts in the USA presenting the state of science and the most current research to the healthcare epidemiologists of the future. Topic experts included: Dr Michael Bell from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) talking transmission of pathogens, Dr Bill Rutala with the latest updates on High Level Disinfection and Dr Phil Carling, who presented on the environment and cleaning.

Delegates are free to attend any of the sessions and full conference delegates were often seen in the epidemiology sessions brushing up on their knowledge base from the experts. Judging from many comments at the meeting, it is likely that following experience from the SARS-2 pandemic, the CDC will be revisiting the traditional transmission pathways of droplet/aerosol over the next year with the possible removal of the ‘droplet’ route.

In the main conference there were many interesting sessions, including how digital technology and mapping can give insights on transmission pathways and Dr Jesse Jacom from Emory Health presented an interesting study demonstrating how, through the electronic tagging of beds, acquisition of C. difficile was nearly twice as likely if a previous occupant of the bed was positive for C. difficile even at 90 days, demonstrating the importance of effective decontamination of equipment when occupied by infected patients.

Heat detection cameras & hand hygiene

Other interesting sessions included a pro/con debate on the use of automated electronic hand hygiene monitoring, where cost-effectiveness, local validation and ongoing maintenance were significant themes. Speaking of hand hygiene monitoring, Dr John Boyce a very eminent epidemiologist presented an interesting poster in which he described the use of a small, iPhone-attached, heat detection camera in demonstrating the effectiveness of hand hygiene with alcohol hand rub. After application, the hand surface cools as the alcohol evaporates and the camera can then detect changes in surface temperature and therefore, coverage with the alcohol. Further validation studies will be required, however this could be an inexpensive and quick method of demonstrating the effectiveness of a hand hygiene episode, rather than just that one took place, and one that a healthcare worker could immediately see how good their technique is.

Other topics of interest…

There were too many sessions to cover comprehensively in this short report, however other topics covered included the unintended consequences of visitor restrictions during the pandemic, whether mask mandates should be extended post-pandemic and for other respiratory pathogens and whether sustainability and infection prevention can co-exist (the consensus was increasingly yes).

Final thoughts

It was great to see a face-to-face meeting again and as ever one of the best things about this type of meeting is being able to walk the floor in the poster sessions, talking to the researchers and discussing ideas with them. One thing is clear, although the meeting was held in the USA, presenting the latest and upcoming science, the problems and solutions must be global, because as we have seen, microbes tend not to respect international borders.

If you’d like to find out more about the recent events the GAMA Healthcare team has attended, visit out Events and Exhibitions section on our blog.



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