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The Dangers of Sepsis

Last year in upstate New York, there were about 800 reported hospital admissions for sepsis which occurred within 30 days of a medical or surgical admission. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have— in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else— triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.


According to the Sepsis Alliance, there are 1.7 million cases of sepsis resulting in 270,000 deaths each year in the United States. The sepsis death toll exceeds annual deaths in the U.S. from breast cancer, prostate cancer and AIDS combined.

Last year in upstate New York, there were about 800 reported hospital admissions for sepsis which occurred within 30 days of a medical or surgical admission.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines sepsis as the body’s extreme response to an infection. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have— in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else— triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.

I have been hearing more about sepsis lately. Can you tell me what it is? 

  • Sepsis occurs when an infection in a person triggers a serious inflammatory response throughout the body. The inflammation can rapidly spread and damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. 
  • Leading causes of sepsis include common infections such as cellulitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and diverticulitis. 

What are the symptoms of sepsis? 

  • The CDC lists any combination of the following as symptoms of sepsis: 
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin 

Is this becoming an issue in the United States? Is it something we are treating locally? 

  • In 2017, the Rate of sepsis admissions in the Utica/Rome/North Country is 4 per 1,000 adults, compared to all of Upstate New York, which is 4.68. 
  • Those at a higher risk for sepsis are the elderly, very young children, those with chronic health conditions, and those with weak immune systems. 

It is important to: 

  • Seek the source of infection 
  • Use antibiotics to fight the infection
  • Ensure you’re maintaining good blood flow to all organs 

Act fast and get medical care immediately if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse. Early treatment with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids improves chances of survival. 

The most frequently identified germs that cause infections that can develop into sepsis include Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli), as well as some types of Streptococcus. Sepsis is preventable as well, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from infections!
                                                                                                                                                         How can I get ahead of sepsis? 

  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands properly and cleaning cuts
  • Discuss with your doctor the best ways to prevent infection
  • Get recommended vaccines
  • Be aware of the warning signs of sepsis
  • Seek medical care immediately when an infection does not get better or worsens