It’s Sepsis Awareness Month and health experts urge people to not ignore symptoms

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - September is Sepsis Awareness Month and health experts say it’s a condition that kills more than 250,000 people a year.

Jenner Staves, RN with HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals Quality Improvement Specialist says every two minutes someone in the U.S. dies from not getting an infection checked out.

“Sepsis is when the body gets an infection, it will overreact to that infection... and can lead to death.... Sepsis can creep up on you,” says Staves.

She also adds sepsis is a leading cause of hospital re-admissions and the number one cost in U.S. hospitalizations at $24 billion.

“Worldwide, there are 8 million deaths attributed to sepsis annually,” Staves said.

Dr. Lawrence Sprecher with Mayo Clinic Health System says sepsis is the number one cause of death in hospitals, and it’s not clear what triggers the condition.

“For instance, you can have two people present to the emergency department with pneumonia. One person just has fever and a cough. The other person has fever, cough, blood pressure of 70, is confused, and then kidney failure,” said Dr. Sprecher.

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • Having an abnormally high or low temperature.
  • Change in mental status, which can include being tired all the time or having a decline in response times and not being able to finish a thought.
  • High heart rate and low blood pressure.
  • Sweats and chills.

In our region the more common infections that lead to sepsis are pneumonia, urinary tract infections, skin infections, and tick borne illness.

Sepsis is a treatable condition with a fairly high survival rate if caught and treated on time.

“80% of sepsis deaths are thought to be able to be prevented by timely diagnosis and treatment,” said Straves.

“I would say 90% of people survive and leave the hospital,” said Dr. Sprecher.

With only 1% of the general population being able to identify sepsis symptoms, health experts say knowing about sepsis can be life-saving.

“The biggest pitfall people get into is... they’re tempted to think all this must be a bad cold. I’m going to try to wait this out,” said Dr. Sprecher.

He adds that sepsis is not transmissible since it only occurs as a response to an infection.

The Sepsis Alliance is an organization informs people of the life-threatening condition.