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Sepsis Awareness Month shines the spotlight on sepsis, a serious complication that affects thousands of people in the United States every year. During the month of September, we encourage you to learn more about sepsis, including the symptoms, risk factors, and steps you can take to prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.

What is sepsis?
You may have heard of sepsis, but what is it exactly? Sepsis is a serious complication that is caused by the body’s response to infection. It can be difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. If sepsis is left untreated, it can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death; but early detection and effective, coordinated treatment can significantly improve a patient’s chance of survival.

There isn’t a single symptom that helps us to identify sepsis, but it can include a combination of any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

The Department of Public Health is working with our partners in Massachusetts to learn about best practices and evidence-based protocols to diagnose and treat sepsis.

cdc_sepsis_symptoms

Who is at risk for sepsis?
Sepsis can be caused by almost any infection, and anyone can develop an infection in their body. There are certain individuals who may be at higher risk for contracting sepsis, including:

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Children under the age of one
  • People with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Individuals exposed to infection associated with surgical or invasive procedures

What can I do to prevent sepsis?
Early detection is critical to effectively treat sepsis, but you can also take steps to help prevent sepsis before it occurs. The Centers for Disease Control and Detection (CDC) advises to:

  • Get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia, and other infections that may lead to sepsis.
  • Prevent infections. Thoroughly clean cuts, scrapes, or wounds, and always practice good hygiene habits like washing your hands.
  • Act quickly. Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you have an infection and experience the symptoms of sepsis, seek medical treatment immediately.

Where can I learn more about sepsis?
There are many excellent resources available online where you can find more information about sepsis, including the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/sepsis/index.html. The CDC offers resources for patients, sepsis FAQs, and clinical resources to help you better understand this serious complication.

The CDC has also recently launched Get Ahead of Sepsis, an educational initiative emphasizing the importance of early recognition and timely treatment of sepsis, as well as the importance of preventing infections that could lead to sepsis.

Take the opportunity during Sepsis Awareness Month to educate yourself on the risks, symptoms, and prevention measures to help you and your loved ones stay safe from sepsis.

Written By:


Health Communications Strategy Manager in the Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality

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