Stopping sepsis

Stopping Sepsis Related Deaths – Too important

According to the WHO, there were about 48.9 million cases and 11 million sepsis-related deaths globally in 2017.

This accounted for almost 20% of all global deaths i.e. 1 in every 5 deaths globally was sepsis-related.

Sadly, half of all global  cases occurred among children, of an estimated 20 million cases 2.9 million global deaths occurred in children under five years of age.

There are significant regional disparities in its incidence and Mortality. Approximately 85% of  cases and sepsis-related deaths worldwide occurred in low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria.

Sepsis is the most preventable cause of death worldwide. In contrast to popular belief, 80% of infections leading to it are actually contracted outside the hospital.

Sepsis can also occur while being managed/treated from a condition or while recovering from a procedure in the hospital.

When there is an infection, the body immune system acts to combat the infection.

In fighting these infections, the immune system can go into overdrive and begin to attack the organs of the body. This is what we call “sepsis”.

This response is not peculiar to bacterial infections as fungal and viral infections can also lead to this condition. Most infections are also implicated.

Sepsis can result from lower respiratory infection being the most common underlying cause of sepsis-related death; others are pneumonia, abdominal infections, meningitis, influenza, seasonal flu, injury site, yellow fever, dengue fever, urinary tract infections and even malaria.

Risk groups/factors

It can affect all people of all ages. People with the highest risk include:

  • Adults above 60 years.
  • Infants less than a year.
  • Individuals with weakened immune system which could be due to disease state, drug therapy, pregnant women.
  • Patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).
  • People living with chronic and non-communicable diseases
  • People who have had their spleen removed.

Signs and Symptoms

The cardinal signs and symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Extreme pain, cold
  • Palpitations, pale skin
  • Sleepiness, slurred speech
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fear of death

The presence of two or more of these symptoms may be indicative of this disease and there’s need to seek urgent medical attention. It can progress to severe sepsis and or to septic shock.

The severe form occurs when there is organ failure. Some signs include, patches of discolored skin, decreased blood clotting, weakness, decreased urination, difficulty in breathing, arrhythmia, chills and shivering due to decrease in body temperature. In septic shock, signs of the severe form  are present with a significant drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness.

What can be done ?

  1. Prevention of infection through:
  • Vaccination
  • Clean water and Sanitation
  • Hand hygiene among healthcare workers, patient(s) and caregivers
  • Proper hygiene before, during and after delivery

2. Prompt treatment of infections via access to quality healthcare services.

  1. Eliminating misuse and irrational use of antibiotics.
  2. Early diagnosis and treatment.

NOTE: Successful treatment is based on early diagnosis.

As worrisome as the global burden maybe, we need not fold our hands, let’s all play our unique and individual roles to fight sepsis.

Happy World Sepsis Day!

By Dr. Uyioghosa B. Osadolor (PharmD)