Health Dept. Partnering On ‘Stop Sepsis At Home’ Initiative

NY State Department of Health is partnering with the NY State Office for the Aging on a new initiative called “Stop Sepsis at Home” to bring awareness to this life-threatening condition that affects over 50,000 people in the state every year.

Sepsis is a progressive shutdown of the body’s organs caused an infection that enters the body-most often through the blood, respiratory, urinary system or soft tissue. 30 percent of adults and 9 percent of children who become septic die in the hospital.

Those who don’t die often experience life-altering consequences like amputated limbs or organ dysfunction. That can then affect their daily lives. Studies have shown that early detection combined with appropriate interventions can significantly improve the chances of survival.

Sepsis can affect people of any age however older adults with chronic health conditions and/or weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible. People aged 65 years and older make up 65 percent of sepsis cases in the hospitals. Statistics indicate that older sepsis survivors are three times more likely to suffer a mental decline called post-sepsis syndrome (PSS). PSS can result in loss of independence and may require an admission into a nursing home.

The risk of dying from severe sepsis or septic shock also increases with age.

“Sepsis is a very serious illness for people of all ages, but it can be devastating for older adults, particularly those with health issues,” said New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen. “The key to preventing sepsis is to prevent an infection from occurring in the first place. If an infection does set in, it must be treated as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Simple precautions, like proper frequent handwashing and flu vaccinations can prevent the underlying illnesses that often lead to sepsis. As we are entering flu season it is particularly important for caregivers to be diligent and proactive in looking for signs and symptoms of sepsis in the frail older people they are caring for.

If you see signs of infection or sepsis it is important to call your primary care physician and seek treatment immediately-report your symptoms and ask your doctor, “Could this be sepsis?” The likelihood of sepsis resulting in death increases 8% for every hour treatment is delayed. Up to 80% of sepsis deaths can be prevented by early diagnosis and treatment.

The Sepsis Alliance has a slogan to help you remember the signs and symptoms of Sepsis. They say “When it comes to Sepsis, remember it’s about TIME:

¯ T: stands for temperature. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. A change in temperature above 100 degrees F (fever) or a lower than normal temperature (below 95 degrees F) can be a sign of sepsis.

¯ I: Infection symptoms. If you have an infected cut, urinary tract infection (burning & frequency) or pneumonia these are localized infections that can spread and turn into sepsis. Look for fever, generalized fatigue, pain, rapid breathing, racing heart and other symptoms that show this local infection may be spreading or getting worse.

¯ M: Mental decline including confusion, sleepiness, difficulty in rousing from sleep.

¯ E: Extremely ill. Person says I feel like I’m dying or complain of severe pain or discomfort.

In 2013, New York became the first state in the nation to enact sepsis regulations. A study published this year showed that the protocols established for NY hospitals to improve identification and treatment of sepsis resulted in a nearly 15 percent reduction in mortality rates for adults with sepsis who are admitted to the hospital. This is a great step forward to preventing death and disability from sepsis, but it’s still imperative that everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms so we can “Stop Sepsis At Home.”

Remember that sepsis can become severe quickly, so seek treatment as soon as possible if you should suspect sepsis. For more information on sepsis visit the Sepsis Alliance website at www.sepsis.org, the NYS Department of Health at health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/sepsis, or contact NY Connects at 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582. Thank you to New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker and New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen for providing the information for this article.