Nearly 3,500 Hoosiers die each year as a result of sepsis. During the month of September, health care professionals are working to improve those statistics by raising awareness. “Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection, and it can lead not only to tissue damage and organ failure, but even death,” says Linda Webb, the chief nurse executive at Pulaski Memorial Hospital.
She adds sepsis may develop from any type of infection, from minor skin infections to more major issues, like urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and appendicitis. One of the challenges with sepsis is that it may be tricky to spot, since many of its symptoms are also signs of other diseases. But Webb says it’s important to be vigilant. “If you have an infection, look for signs of fever and chills, rapid breathing or heart rate, confusion, disorientation. Those are some of the signs to look for,” she says.
People with weakened immune systems are most at risk, including those under the age of 10 or over the age of 65. Those who’ve recently undergone surgery, been hospitalized, or suffered a severe burn or wound are also at an increased risk. Webb urges those who suspect they may have sepsis to seek immediate medical attention.
She says health care providers like Pulaski Memorial Hospital have procedures in place to handle the disease. “We have specific sepsis alerts built into our systems,” she explains. “We have developed over the last several years some really good sepsis protocols, so that when a patient comes in, we’ll do a sepsis screening, and if they fall out in that screening based on some of the criteria, then we implement the treatment.” That treatment may include antibiotics, as well proper hydration or other supportive care.
Not only is September recognized as Sepsis Awareness Month, but the State of Indiana also commemorated World Sepsis Day this past Tuesday. For more information about sepsis, visit SurviveSepsis.com.