Sepsis Awareness Lacking in US

Sepsis Awareness Month celebrated in September highlights life threatening response to infection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sepsis — or "blood poisoning," as it is sometimes called — affects many patients across the US each year, but many others are not even aware of it.

As Sepsis Awareness Month is in September, new data on knowledge of the condition has been released.

A new survey estimated that many US adults had not heard of sepsis.

"Wash your hands with soap and water."

Sepsis — a serious response to an infection — can affect the entire body. When the immune system releases chemicals to fight infection into the blood, those chemicals sometimes cause inflammation, which can cause blood clots.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sepsis can quickly develop, sometimes leading to organ failure and death.

"Sepsis is a severe form of generalized infection that can result in failure of multiple organs," explained Steven Davis, MD, an infectious disease specialist who practices at Baylor Medical Center at Irving where he is the medical director of infection control.

"For example, a strep or staph infection in a leg usually can be treated early with antibiotics in a physician's office. However, in its most severe form, septic shock can lead to release of toxins that result in kidney failure, lung failure and a dangerous decrease in blood pressure," Dr. Davis said.

"When fever remains high, thinking is altered, blood pressure drops or concerns that would indicate such a severe manifestation of infection, a patient is best cared for in an emergency department equipped to initiate sepsis protocols that can reduce risk for complications and improve survival," he said.

Despite the serious nature of sepsis, new research found that many people were unaware of the issue.

A new study conducted for the Sepsis Alliance by Jill Gress, of Nielsen Consumer Insights, explored the public's knowledge of the condition.

To do so, Gress and team used an online survey to measure the knowledge of 2,100 adults in the US during June 2014. The study authors then assessed knowledge of sepsis among adults across the US.

Gress and team said that around 4 in 10 Americans had not heard of sepsis.

Of those who had heard the term, only about 61 percent knew that it referred to body's sometimes deadly response to infections.

Sepsis is thought to affect more than 1 million people each year — a number that seems to have been growing in recent years, the CDC wrote.

In a news release, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, noted the importance of sepsis awareness.

“As a doctor, I have treated patients with sepsis and have seen first-hand the devastation it brings to patients and families,” he said. “We have a long way to go to educate clinicians and inform the public about this all-too-common illness.”

Dr. Davis told dailyRx his recommendations for reducing sepsis risk.

"To reduce your risk for sepsis when you are being treated for an infection, it is critical that you follow your physician's instructions carefully and keep him/her informed about any changes in your status. Complete all of your prescribed antibiotics. Keep hydrated as per your physician's instructions and monitor your temperature and symptoms with the help of your family/caretaker," he said.

"If the situation worsens with fever that is uncontrolled, change in mental status or drop in BP, it is best to contact your physician and get to emergency department so that evaluation and treatment for sepsis can be initiated," Dr. Davis recommended.

Review Date: 
September 5, 2014
Last Updated:
September 9, 2014