Southeastern United States Leads the Way With Sepsis Reports

Sepsis belt overlaps stroke belt

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There's the traditional "stroke belt" across the southeastern United States where death from stroke is much higher. But new research suggests there also is a "blood stream infection belt" that very closely mirrors the stroke belt.

The "sepsis belt," as it's become known is remarkably similar to the stroke belt, which encompasses 11 states from Louisiana to Virginia.

"Schedule regular check ups if you reside in the stroke belt."

University of Alabama at Birmingham emergency physician Dr. Henry Wang said the death rate from sepsis is much higher along the southeastern region -- the same one afflicted with high stroke death rates. 

Dr. Wang said that his research team examined death rates from sepsis across the United States in 2010. After laying the areas out on a map, they noticed that the cluster of deaths very closely resembled that of the stroke belt.

Sepsis, a blood stream infection usually triggered by diseases such as meningitis or bacterial pneumonia, causes about 750,000 hospitalizations and 200,000 deaths each year in the United States, similar to statistics for heart attacks.

Dr. Wang said there are many reasons that the geographic cluster might occur. He said that possibilities include pre-existing medical conditions, health behaviors such as frequency of doctor visits, diet or genetics. It also could include pollution or the environment.

The National Institute of Nursing Research, one of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Dr. Wang a five-year $2.7 million grant to study the risk factors for sepsis and possible reasons for the cluster. Dr. Wang will use data from the REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study, a large, long-term study of the stroke belt, funded by the federal government and based at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

About 30,000 individuals already are enrolled in the REGARDS study. Researchers hope to use the information to determine the characteristics of those most likely to be hospitalized with sepsis. This in turn may lead to strategies to prevent sepsis, Dr. Wang said.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 1, 2011
Last Updated:
August 3, 2011