George Institute calls for public awareness campaign on Sepsis

On the occasion of World Sepsis day this week, the George Institute for Global Health has called for a national public awareness campaign, saying that it kills more people than breast or prostrate cancer combined. Awareness about this, however, is quite low in different parts of the world including in India.

Sepsis, the life-threatening condition that arises when the body's response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs, affects one in four in Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) across India every year, according to a 2012 study. But, very few Indians know the key warning signs including fever and high heart rate.

Professor Simon Finfer, of The George Institute for Global Health, said it was time sepsis was put at the top of the health agenda, both in Australia and globally where it kills up to 5.3 million people each year.

Professor Finfer said: “Despite advances in modern medicine like vaccines, antibiotics, and acute care, sepsis takes the lives of almost one in three people that contract it. But, most Australians don’t even know what sepsis is, let alone what to look out for.”

A nationwide study conducted in India in 2012 found a prevalence of sepsis within intensive care units of hospitals: one out of four patients admitted in ICUs contracted the ailment in hospitals' emergency departments. Almost one out of two patients with sepsis died. The reasons for the rising incidence could be poor hospital hygiene, abuse of antibiotics or rampant self-medication among people.

Sepsis can lead to multi-organ failure and is globally a prime cause of death by infection. The study — Indian Intensive Care Case Mix and Practice Patterns (INDICAPS) — is based on a sample size of 4,209 patients, including 171 children, admitted to 124 ICUs across 17 states. Preliminary findings showed how 26% of the patients in ICUs contracted sepsis. Mortality in patients with sepsis was 42.2% as opposed to 17.8% in those who did not get it.

The study also busted the myth that patients undergoing surgeries are more prone than others to sepsis. For, 859 or 27.6% of the patients who died of sepsis were not operated upon and were in hospital for non-surgical treatment. The percentage of deaths in surgical cases was around 14.4%. Common sites of infection in patients that resulted in sepsis included bedsores, intravenous lines, surgical wounds and surgical drains.

The study had recommended that early diagnosis hold the key and an area of worry is hospital acquired infection. Also, hand hygiene in ICU can help reducing hospital acquired infection to a great extent.

This study and several other global observations have pointed to the rise in cases and deaths caused by sepsis. There is also a growing clamour to involve sepsis survivors in awareness and sensitization programmes.