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New Jersey Department of Health Recognizes World Sepsis Awareness Day

As part of Sepsis Awareness Day, September 13, the New Jersey Department of Health is joining the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Get Ahead of Sepsis education campaign to raise public awareness about the effects of sepsis, emphasize the importance of early recognition and timely treatment, and the need to prevent infections that could lead to sepsis.

“Early identification and prompt treatment of sepsis is critical to survival,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett said. “Since there is no single sign or symptom of sepsis, it is important that hospitals always ask the question, 'Could it be sepsis?' when a condition is not readily identified.’’

Septicemia, commonly referred to as sepsis or "blood poisoning," is a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Sepsis is the seventh leading cause of death among New Jersey residents, with more than 2,000 deaths due to sepsis in 2015. Sepsis, a life-threatening but sometimes overlooked complication of infection, is the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals, accounting for more than $23.7 billion.

This past June, the Department proposed new rules that would require hospitals to establish, implement and periodically update evidence-based protocols for the early identification and treatment of patients with healthcare-acquired and community-acquired sepsis, and septic shock. The proposed rules also require hospitals to train staff in the protocols they establish. Staff would need to be re-trained annually to ensure they are up-to-date on periodic protocol revisions and to refresh their sensitivity to the need for early identification and treatment of sepsis.

The Department has also launched a social media campaign to increase public awareness of sepsis. About 45 percent of Americans say they are not aware of sepsis, according to a survey by Sepsis Alliance.

Sepsis is the result of an infection. Symptoms can include signs of infection such as diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat, as well as any of these symptoms: shivering or fever, extreme pain or discomfort, clammy or sweaty skin, confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, or high heart rate.

Anyone can develop sepsis from an infection, especially when not treated properly. However, sepsis occurs most often in people aged 65 years or older or less than 1 year, those who have weakened immune systems or have chronic medical conditions like diabetes.  The four types of infections that are most often associated with sepsis are lung, urinary tract, skin and gut. Even when individuals survive sepsis, some patients have long-term side effects including weakness, fatigue, difficulty moving around and trouble sleeping. 

More than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the U.S., and about 250,000 Americans die from sepsis each year.

For more information on sepsis and the CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis initiative, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.

Last Reviewed: 9/12/2017