The CDC and other health-related organizations have begun an awareness campaign to teach the public about sepsis, which is diagnosed in up to 3 million Americans annually, according to a New York Times article.
“We want people to be able to recognize sepsis just like they recognize a heart attack or stroke, and know they shouldn’t wait until Thursday when the doctor can see them, but go to the emergency room right away,” Thomas Heymann, executive director of Sepsis Alliance, said in the article published Sept. 19 and written by Roni Caryn Rabin.
The condition is increasing, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which reported the number of hospitalizations due to sepsis more than doubled from 2000 through 2008. In the U.S., sepsis accounts for far more deaths than the number of deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined, according to World Sepsis Day 2016. It’s the third leading cause of death in the nation, according to Sepsis Alliance.
Sepsis is a complication of an infection, which could be life-threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic. It occurs when chemicals in the bloodstream that fight the infection trigger inflammation in the body, which could in turn damage organs, sometimes causing them to fail. Sepsis is more common and most dangerous in those with weak immune systems, in older adults or very young people, and in those who are already very sick, often in a hospital’s intensive care unit, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The CDC’s campaign to teach the public about sepsis, includes educational fact sheets and encourages people to suggest the diagnosis to healthcare providers who may overlook it, according to the New York Times article.
A CDC sepsis fact sheet, created with Sepsis Alliance, states “sepsis can occur to anyone, at any time, from any type of infection,” even a minor one. Sepsis is associated with infection of the lungs, including pneumonia, the urinary tract, the skin and the gut, according to the fact sheet. “More than 90% of adults and 70% of children who developed sepsis had a health condition that put them at risk,” the CDC stated.
A combination of the following symptoms could indicate sepsis, according to the CDC.
High heart rate
Shortness of breath
Clammy, sweaty skin
Extreme pain or discomfort
Confusion or disorientation
Fever, shivering and cold
Patients with sepsis are usually hospitalized and treated with antibiotics, oxygen and intravenous fluids to maintain normal blood oxygen levels and blood pressure.
To prevent sepsis, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia; cleaning scrapes and wounds; and practicing good hygiene such as hand washing.
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