Sepsis is a major health problem which negatively impacts the lives of many people across the globe. It affects between 27–30 million people each year, and of those, between 6 and 9 million people die as a result. But the most worrying statistic is that sepsis is the most preventable cause of death worldwide. Unfortunately, depending on the country and education level, only 7–50% of people know about sepsis, and many are unaware of the simple measures that can be undertaken to prevent it. Many also do not know that the risk of death can be significantly reduced by early recognition of the symptoms and early effective treatment. Sepsis is a major health problem which negatively impacts the lives of many people across the globe. It affects between 27–30 million people each year, and of those, between 6 and 9 million people die as a result. But the most worrying statistic is that sepsis is the most preventable cause of death worldwide. Unfortunately, depending on the country and education level, only 7–50% of people know about sepsis, and many are unaware of the simple measures that can be undertaken to prevent it. Many also do not know that the risk of death can be significantly reduced by early recognition of the symptoms and early effective treatment.
World Sepsis Day (WSD) was established in 2012 in response to this global healthcare crisis by the World Sepsis Alliance; a not-for-profit charity organisation with the mission to provide global leadership to reduce the worldwide burden of sepsis. It is led by experts from all over the world and has over 95 member organisations currently.
September 13th each year is recognised as World Sepsis Day. It aims to increase public awareness of sepsis and to show solidarity with millions of people across the world who have lost loved ones, as well as survivors who might be living with long-term complications.
What is sepsis?
The WSD website explains that “sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multi-organ failure, and death - especially if not recognised early and treated promptly. Sepsis is the final common pathway to death from most infectious diseases worldwide.”
Another expert, and survivor of the condition, said: “The important thing to remember is that sepsis is not caused by any one bacteria or virus. It’s an overreaction by the body to infection, which rapidly escalates.”
Most common infections can lead to sepsis including flu, pneumonia, urinary infections, infections in the abdomen, skin or wound infections and meningitis, but it can also follow diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and Ebola infections. Although anyone can get sepsis, some groups are at higher risk, such as:
- Young children under 1
- Older people (60+)
- People with no spleen
- People with immunocompromising conditions such as AIDS
- People with chronic heart, liver or lung conditions
- People with diabetes
One of the most misunderstood facts about sepsis is that it is one of the few conditions which can hit equally hard in the developed world as in less-developed, resource-poorer areas. In fact, the incidence of sepsis has increased in the developed world at an annual rate of between 8% and 13% in the last 10 years, and it is responsible for more lives lost than breast and bowel cancer combined.
The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent infections in the first place through the use of vaccinations and good hygiene practices, including having access to clean water and hygienic birth situations.
Signs and symptoms
Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of sepsis is vital in saving lives as it increases the chance that the sepsis can be treated. Some of the things to look out for include:
Slurred speech or confusion
Extreme shivering or muscle pain/fever
Passing no urine all day
It feels like you’re going to die
Skin mottled or discoloured
If someone already has sepsis, then they will need to be treated as a medical emergency and their infection needs to be treated immediately. If in doubt, seek medical attention. Delaying treatment could be life-threatening.
Use World Sepsis Day to educate your staff and parents
One of the greatest problems facing the people trying to combat sepsis is simply the lack of awareness about it. Sepsis can take hold very rapidly (within hours) and the more people who are aware of it, the more chance there is of spotting the symptoms early, giving the person the best chance of recovery. One survivor on the website recounts his own experience of scraping his hand on a rusty nail. He thought nothing of it, but 48 hours later, he was in a coma. That’s why the organisers of WSD want people to talk about sepsis, to educate their friends and colleagues about it, and to use their personal circles of influence to help spread the word.
Sign the World Sepsis Declaration
One easy way to support World Sepsis Day is to share the link for signing the World Sepsis Declaration with your colleagues, families and friends; everyone should be informed about sepsis. The declaration is a call to action for governments, NGOs, healthcare providers, institutions, businesses, public and private sector organisations and the general public alike, asking them to commit to doing everything possible to stem the tide of sepsis and to put plans together to achieve a set of specific goals by 2020. The current goal is to reduce sepsis deaths by 20% by 2020. By signing the declaration, you are showing your support for this.
Now we cannot all set up national healthcare schemes or vaccination programmes, but there are many things we can do as individuals and nursery professionals to help raise awareness and increase education about sepsis in our own circles.
Here are a few suggestions of things you can do in your setting to help.
- Download the toolkit from worldsepsisday.org/toolkits and run an education session for your parents and staff. There is a comprehensive toolkit on the website consisting of information, resources and a “What is sepsis?” video which runs for just 3 minutes, which you can use to get the main messages over.
- Sign the Sepsis Declaration and share the link to it on your social media channels asking your friends and family to sign it too.
- Wear pink for the day and tell everyone why you are doing it.
- Hold a pink picnic and serve all manner of pink food such as fairy cakes, salmon, shrimps, raspberries, pink grapefruit and watermelon. You can always make some pink bread for sandwiches using some pink food colouring.
- Participate in the photo challenge and share your photos on social media using the hashtag #WorldSepsisDay.