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What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Sepsis can evolve to septic shock, multiple organ failures, and even death. Lack of public awareness and delayed treatment contribute to making sepsis the #1 preventable cause of death worldwide. Early detection and appropriate intervention can significantly improve the odds of surviving sepsis.

How do I know if I have sepsis?

Diagnosing sepsis can be difficult. Some common symptoms of sepsis are:

        • Fever or chills
        • Fast heart rate
        • Increased respiratory rate
        • Changes in mental function
        • Hyperglycemia
        • Edema‚Äč

If you feel unwell, seek the attention of a healthcare professional.

How is sepsis treated?

Depending on certain factors, the treatment of sepsis varies from case to case. The initial site and cause of infection, the particular organs affected, and the severity of damage done can influence how each patient is treated. Antibiotics are administered to combat the infection and prevent it from spreading. Oxygen may be given when a patient is in respiratory distress and fluid resuscitation and/or vasopressors are used to increase blood pressure. 

How can I prevent sepsis?

The best and easiest way to prevent sepsis is to practice good hygiene. Washing hands with warm soap and water prevent the spread of infectious agents. Cleaning and eating properly cooked food will prevent gastrointestinal infection. Open wounds must be kept clean and antibiotic prescriptions should be finished entirely.

Vaccination is important to reduce the spread of preventable disease. Everyone who can get vaccinated should be, not only to protect themselves but others as well. There are certain populations of people that cannot be vaccinated. However, they are protected by “herd immunity”. With a significant percent of the population is vaccinated, dangerous infections are not able to travel as easily, and outbreaks are prevented, even among those who cannot be vaccinated.

What are the possible outcomes of sepsis?

Given a mortality rate between 30 and 50%, 1 in 18 deaths in Canada are related to sepsis, making it the 12th leading cause of death nationally. Although sepsis is not commonly cited as the primary cause of death, it is often a significant contributing factor. Nevertheless, 50 to 70% of patients with sepsis survive. After being discharged from the ICU, life for sepsis survivors is not always easy. For some, they experience a full recovery with minimal reminisce of the illness. For others, they are not as lucky.

Who is at risk of getting sepsis?

Any infection puts a person at risk of developing sepsis. The most common infections that lead to sepsis are pneumonia, kidney, and urinary tract infections, and abdominal infections. There are certainly additional factors that predispose patients to develop sepsis, which includes:

        • Chronic disease (chronic lung disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, peripheral artery disease)
        • Age above 75
        • Male gender
        • Tobacco use
        • Stroke
        • Use of immunosuppressive agents

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