UK Sepsis Trust calls for people to better understand the signs and symptoms of sepsis

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This World Sepsis Day, the UK Sepsis Trust is calling for people to better understand the signs and symptoms of sepsis and recognize it as a medical emergency, in order to reduce the risk of death and mitigate against the very real long-term health effects of post-sepsis syndrome. A new IPSOS survey looking to better understand awareness of sepsis, shows that 1 in 5 people in the UK have not heard of sepsis, and as many as 1 in 3 would not treat it as a life-threatening medical emergency. This year the UK Sepsis Trust calls for greater recognition of this gap in awareness to ensure that lives can be saved.

UK Sepsis Trust calls for people to better understand the signs and symptoms of sepsis
Image Credit: UK Sepsis Trust

Sepsis is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury – affecting 245,000 people in the UK every year, resulting in 48,000 deaths.  This is more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. It can be triggered by any infection – bacterial, fungal or viral, including by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimes it attacks the body’s own organs and tissues. With early diagnosis, it can often be effectively treated with antibiotics. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death.

Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of sepsis is vital to ensure urgent medical attention is sought. Sepsis can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms present differently between adults and children. Sepsis is a medical emergency and if signs are present, urgent medical attention needs to be sought immediately.

Dr Ron Daniels, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust explains: “We need to do more to get the vital message across that the early identification of sepsis can be lifesaving, we need people to ask, ‘could it be sepsis?’ sooner and understand the urgent action required if they suspect sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency. If we don’t ensure early identification and treatment, the risk of death, life-long and life-changing impacts can be grave. Post-sepsis syndrome, recently publicly described as long-COVID, is sadly all too common among sepsis survivors and we need to work together to ensure the relevant awareness, support and care is provided.”

Much like the longer-term illness that has been evidenced with COVID-19, post-sepsis syndrome (PSS) is a condition that affects up to 50% of sepsis survivors. It includes physical and/or psychological long-term effects, that can have a profound impact on quality of life. Again, the best method of avoiding post-sepsis syndrome is the early identification and treatment of sepsis to mitigate against the risks of longer-term illness.

Data has shown that up to approximately one-third of sepsis survivors will go on to suffer permanent and life-changing side effects which is known as post-sepsis syndrome.  It has huge similarity to long COVID and can present physically and psychologically. Despite its similarities, post-sepsis syndrome is severely under-addressed, and we urge the government to put more resources behind both conditions to support with rehabilitation.

With the recent and ongoing focus on COVID, and the huge catch-up task that the NHS now has to tackle, we mustn’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to other conditions – especially sepsis. Sepsis is an emergency and early recognition and treatment leads to a much better outcome. So, it is important for all of us to have it in the backs of our minds. For those who have suffered from it, many require ongoing help and support for their post-sepsis syndrome issues – again something we need to provide for whilst delivering care for people with long COVID.”

Dr Ranj Singh, NHS Doctor, TV Presenter and Sepsis Awareness Advocate

During World Sepsis Day 2021, the UK Sepsis Trust is calling to action that members of the public should be aware of the signs and symptoms of sepsis, aware that sepsis is a medical emergency and ask health professionals ‘could it be sepsis?’ when reaching out for urgent medical advice. We need to work together in order to save lives and reduce the risk of post-sepsis syndrome.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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