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Raising Awareness of Sepsis: 8 Milestones From This Decade

Raising Awareness of Sepsis: 8 Milestones From This Decade content piece image

Sepsis arises when in combating an infection, the immune system damages a persons’ own tissues and organs. This can lead to organ failure, and ultimately, death. Sepsis can escalate in minutes and has a staggering mortality rate.

Watch this short video to learn about the most preventable cause of death and disability worldwide.

As early diagnosis and rapid treatment is critical for survival, improving universal awareness of sepsis can go a long way towards reducing the burden of this condition.

Recently, we spoke with Dr Konrad Reinhart, who is working hard to improve sepsis management around the world. Konrad is Chair of the Global Sepsis Alliance and one of the key initiators of World Sepsis Day. 

With World Sepsis Day on the horizon, we thought we’d cover a few milestones related to sepsis awareness that were highlighted by Dr Reinhart during the interview.

1) We got much closer to realizing the actual burden of sepsis

Generating enough data to grab the attention of the right people has been crucial to improving awareness for the general public and policy makers.

Even though sepsis kills more people annually than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined, public awareness of this disease is generally very low.

This isn’t so surprising, given the lack of data that was available.

Up until recently, sepsis was only ranked in position 15 on a WHO priority list as ‘neo-natal sepsis', whereas lower respiratory tract infections ranked in position 1, in terms of quality of life and years of life lost.

“This is completely hard to accept, because if you die of lower respiratory tract infections, you die of course from sepsis - because is the final common pathway of any major acute infection. This was not even understood by the authors of the Global Burden of Disease report,” explained Konrad.

New data provides insights on the extent to which sepsis affects people, which has helped encourage local and global organizations take note.

A tentative extrapolation from 15 high-income-country data suggests there are 30.7 million sepsis cases annually, with potentially 6 million deaths each year

Image credit: Pixabay

2) The next Global Burden of Disease report will acknowledge sepsis

This year, sepsis data will appear in the Global Burden of Disease Report for the first time.

The Global Burden of Disease is a critical resource for informed policy-making, and sepsis needs to be a priority. Dr Reinhart explained the significance of this:

“Diseases which are not adequately depicted or set out there will not come to the attention of policy makers, big funders, philanthropists and also not the media - and thus laypeople.”

World Sepsis Day was established

The very first World Sepsis Day was held in 2012, on September 13th, and has been held annually ever since.

World Sepsis Day was initiated by the Global Sepsis Alliance to raise awareness about sepsis, including symptoms, treatments, and prevention tactics. Simply bringing the word ‘sepsis’ into people’s vocabulary may save lives, as it could trigger people to ask ‘could it be sepsis?’ at a crucial moment, as explained by Dr Reinhart:

"A delay of antimicrobial (administration) increases mortality by 2% per hour... Sepsis is a time-critical syndrome, and that's why early recognition and diagnosis is so key."

As outlined in a paper published on the very first World Sepsis Day, in the journal Critical Care:

‘Society as a whole needs to recognize that sepsis is a major problem in terms of mortality, morbidity, and health-care costs. We need to lobby for better treatments so that the resources will be made available and directed toward projects that ultimately will benefit patients with sepsis. The WSD is just a start to increase global awareness of this problem.’

Global trends in the awareness of sepsis has been gauged by studying search engine data, which shows awareness campaigns do have a significant impact on sepsis-related search activity.

Visit the WSD website to find out how you can participate on September 13th.

Another way to get involved is to join the I am a Resistance Fighter campaign, which is a global, concentrated effort dedicated to raising awareness of the need to combat antimicrobial resistance.

4) Tactics were developed for tackling sepsis on a global scale

The World Sepsis Declaration was established in 2012, and aims to:

  • Increase the political priority given to sepsis
  • Ensure that sufficient treatment and rehabilitation facilities are available
  • Support the implementation of international sepsis guidelines to improve earlier recognition and improve treatment/prevention strategies
  • Mobilize stakeholders
  • Involve sepsis survivors and those bereaved by sepsis in planning strategies to improve outcomes

The World Sepsis Declaration lists key targets for 2020. You can join the movement and sign the petition against sepsis here.

The World Health Organization adopted a resolution for sepsis

In 2017 the World Health Organization finally recognized sepsis as a global health priority and adopted a resolution, following some heavy campaigning.

The resolution details specific actions which will be made to reduce the burden of sepsis, through improved prevention, diagnosis, and management.

As stated by the authors of the resolution, adopting these recommendations has the potential to save millions of lives, and require ‘a coordinated effort by policymakers, health care administrators, researchers, and clinicians working with people of all ages in all health care settings and in the community’.

Dr. Carl Flatley presented the Global Sepsis Award to Marcus Friedrich, Chief Medical Officer of the New York State Department of Health, on behalf of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Photo credit: Global Sepsis Alliance.

A New York Governor enforced improved sepsis procedures in all NY hospitals

In January 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that every hospital in New York must adopt aggressive procedures for identifying sepsis in patients.

This move was triggered by the story of Rory Staunton, a 12-year old boy from Queens, New York. One Tuesday in 2012, Rory slipped while playing basketball at school and cut his elbow on the gym floor. He passed away the following Sunday.

During that time Rory had been discharged from hospital, and vital signs of sepsis had been ignored by doctors.

Rory’s parents shared their story and started a campaign to increase awareness of sepsis.

Dr Reinhart explains: “This child was known by Senator Chuck Schumer from the Democrats. They went to the CDC, and asked the CDC – ‘why don’t you have anything on the website on sepsis?’ That’s how all these awareness campaigns in various countries came together, and they were also encouraged by the World Sepsis Day movement. They contributed to this movement and vice versa, so that’s an important part of this story.”

The initiatives, called ‘Rory’s Regulations’ ensure that all hospitals have mandatory sepsis protocols in place, and save an estimate of 5000-8000 New Yorkers each year.

“This was a mandate for all 179 hospitals in the State of New York to document in every patient who came to the emergency department.”

As well as improving the treatment protocol, Cuomo made it compulsory for a blood culture to be drawn before administering antimicrobials. From this, data was generated which confirmed that every delay increases mortality in both adults and children.

This was a big success. Since these regulations were implemented, sepsis identification increased, sepsis mortality rates decreased, and Cuomo was presented with the Global Sepsis Award.

Image credit: Pixabay

The UK Sepsis Trust stepped up to improve their support for families with newborn babies 

Following efforts from the UK Sepsis Trust, parents are being well-informed about sepsis, when they welcome a newborn baby into the family. Konrad Reinhart explained:

“In this context it's very important. Every family in the UK who has a child gets a booklet that informs them not only on nutrition. There is one page in the booklet that educates the family on signs which must make them suspicious for sepsis – both for under 2-year olds and in older children...

This comes with a 24/7 number that they can call. This is the first country where this is the case – so the UK has also done a great job, based on the awareness campaign that was organized by the UK Sepsis Trust.”

The first free international sepsis conference was organized

In 2016, the Global Sepsis Alliance organized the World Sepsis congress, a free, online conference dedicated to everything sepsis-related.

The 2nd World Sepsis Congress is to be held on September 5th and 6th 2018, and features 100 speakers from over 30 countries.

The congress will feature panel discussions by sepsis survivors, and cover the latest research, national and global awareness strategies, and treatment progress.

“The World Congress increased awareness for sepsis in many countries, and on all continents it encouraged all stakeholders to do more in their own constituencies and their country,” said Dr Reinhart.

The WHO and CDC have taken note. Will you? Here’s how you can learn more and support the movement:

1) Tune in to the FREE online World Sepsis Congress happening on Sep 5th-6th and listen to talks from many excellent speakers including:
  • Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust
  • Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director
  • Marcus Freidrich, Department of Health, New York State, US, Chief Medical Director, (who was key to running the New York campaign)

2) Share this video with your friends, family, and colleagues

3) Tune into an interview on 'The Science Explorer' Facebook page with Dr Konrad Reinhart on September 18th