Sepsis is caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection and requires rapid intervention. It begins outside of the hospital for nearly 80% of patients. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 70% of patients with sepsis had used health care services recently or had chronic diseases that required frequent medical care. These patients represent opportunities for health care providers to prevent, recognize, and treat sepsis long before it can cause life-threatening illness or death, according to the CDC.
“When sepsis occurs, it should be treated as a medical emergency,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “Doctors and nurses can prevent sepsis and also the devastating effects of sepsis, and patients and families can watch for sepsis and ask, ‘Could this be sepsis?’”
Certain people with an infection are more likely to develop sepsis, including people 65 years of age or older; infants less than 1 year old; people who have weakened immune systems; and people who have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes. While much less common, even healthy children and adults can develop sepsis from an infection, especially when it is not recognized early. The signs and symptoms of sepsis include shivering, fever, or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; clammy or sweaty skin; confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath; and a high heart rate.
According to the new Vital Signs report, infections of the lung, urinary tract, skin, and gut most often led to sepsis. In most cases, the germ that caused the infection leading to sepsis was not identified. When identified, the most common germs leading to sepsis were Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and some types of Streptococcus.
Health care providers play a critical role in protecting patients from infections that can lead to sepsis and in recognizing sepsis early, the CDC says. Health care providers can:
The CDC is working on five key areas related to sepsis:
Source: CDC; August 23, 2016.