Sepsis Awareness Month Shines Spotlight on Infection Complication That Kills Thousands

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September is Sepsis Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to share some information and best practices concerning this life-threatening condition.

Sepsis occurs when an infection triggers a chain reaction in a patient's body, resulting in tissue damage, organ failure and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 1.7 million people develop sepsis every year, with about 270,000 Americans dying from it. One in three patients who die in a hospital have sepsis, CDC states.

Some key facts to know about sepsis:

  • Almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Certain people are at higher risk: adults 65 or older, people with chronic medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, lung disease, cancer, kidney disease), people with weakened immune systems and children younger than one.

  • The most frequently identified pathogens that cause infections turning into sepsis include Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and some types of Streptococcus.

  • The four types of infections most often linked with sepsis: infections of the lungs, urinary track, skin and gut.

  • To help patients avoid sepsis, healthcare professionals should follow best practices, including practicing good hand hygiene and proper catheter removal.

  • Signs to watch for that may indicate an infection has developed into sepsis include confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath; high heart rate; fever, shivering and/or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; and clammy or sweaty skin.

  • Healthcare professionals need to know their facilities' guidelines for diagnosing and managing sepsis. Any delays in recognition and treatment can cause significant harm.

Here are a few, free resources from the CDC that can help you raise awareness of sepsis:

Learn more about Sepsis Awareness Month.