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CDC Says Sepsis Is "Medical Emergency"

Sepsis has been declared a medical emergency in a Tuesday report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every year, between 1 and 3 million people are diagnosed with sepsis, and the CDC is asking doctors and nurses to take heed and do more to prevent, identify, and properly treat the potentially deadly condition.

Although deaths from sepsis rose to 159,690 from 128,766 in 2013 alone, there aren't specific tests to easily diagnose the condition. There isn't even a standard definition for the condition, so death tracking isn't exact. Deaths that are due to sepsis are counted, but deaths where there is another primary disease or condition aren't. 

Causes And Prevalence

Two reasons for the rise in sepsis are suspected to be more use of antibiotics, which leads to resistance, and an uptick in invasive surgeries. Older people, babies and children, those with compromised immune systems and people who have recently had surgery or are on steroids or in chemotherapy are more susceptible to sepsis. Despite public perception to the contrary, 80 percent of cases begin in public, not at a hospital. In total, about 2 million people per year are diagnosed with sepsis. The mortality rate ranges from 15 to 30 percent.

It is vital to identify the condition as soon as possible to stop the rapid spread of infection which can lead to septic shock. Unfortunately, missing a diagnosis of sepsis isn't uncommon - different symptoms present in different people. Behind congestive heart failure, sepsis was the second most common reason for re-admittance in 2011. According to a study in 2015, 40 percent of those cases could have been prevented with prompt and specialized care.

How To Prevent Misdiagnosis

The CDC laid out a list of things healthcare workers can do to help prevent, diagnose, and treat sepsis effectively:

  • Educate patients and their families about the importance of infection prevention and better management of chronic conditions. Teach them to seek care immediately if an infection doesn't seem to get better
  • Know all of the signs and symptoms of sepsis to better identify and act on it sooner
  • Act as quickly as possible when a patient is suspected to have sepsis - complete tests, identify the source and determine usage of antibiotics
  • Frequently check on patients to assess and re-assess the antibiotic therapy

The CDC said the six main symptoms of sepsis aren't always well-known or recognized. They include shivers, running a fever, chills or feeling very cold, severe pain, sweaty or clammy feeling to the skin, disorientation or confusion, being short of breath, and a high pulse.


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