What Is Sepsis? - Definition of Sepsis

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 recognized early and treated promptly. Sepsis is the final common pathway to death from most infectious diseases worldwide.


Sepsis - Explained in 3 Minutes

The following video explains sepsis in 3 minutes - including the most common causes, symptoms, how it can be diagnosed and treated, and more. Besides English and French, it is available in Spanish, PortugueseItalian, Turkish, and German (YouTube links).


Sepsis - A global Health Crisis

Sepsis is a global health crisis.

It affects 27 to 30 million people every year, 7 to 9 million die – one death every 3.5 seconds.

Depending on country, mortality varies between 15 and more than 50 %.

Many surviving patients suffer from the consequences of sepsis for the rest of their lives.

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Impact in AFRICA

Each year in Africa, millions of individuals develop sepsis. Many do not survive, and an additional one-third of survivors die during the following year. Many survivors face life-long consequences, such as new physical, mental, and cognitive problems.


Sepsis - Common Causes

Most types of microorganisms can cause sepsis, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. However, it may also be caused by infections with seasonal influenza viruses, dengue viruses, and highly transmissible pathogens of public health concern; such as avian and swine influenza viruses, Ebola, and yellow fever viruses.

Sepsis often presents as the clinical deterioration of common and preventable infections such as those of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tract, or of wounds and skin. Sepsis is frequently under-diagnosed at an early stage - when it still is potentially reversible.


Sepsis - Symptoms

The following symptoms might indicate sepsis:

  • Slurred speech or confusion

  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain, fever

  • Passing no urine all day

  • Severe breathlessness

  • It feels like you’re going to die

  • Skin mottled or discolored

If you have a confirmed or suspected infection and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your local hospital or physician immediately.

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Sepsis - Risk Groups

Everybody can get sepsis, no matter how healthy or how good in shape you are, or where you live. Certain people are at an even higher risk. Those include:

  • Children under 1

  • Adults over 60

  • People with no spleen

  • People with chronic diseases, e.g. lung, liver, heart

  • People with weakened immune systems, e.g. AIDS, Diabetes

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Prevent Sepsis

Sepsis is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide. The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent infection in the first place, which can be done by:

  • Vaccination

  • Clean water

  • Hand hygiene

  • Prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)

  • Safe childbirth

  • Awareness


Post-Sepsis Symptoms (PSS)

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Sepsis does not end at hospital discharge. Many sepsis survivors suffer from the consequences of sepsis for the rest of their lives. These can include:

  • Sadness

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Muscle weakness

  • Clouded thinking

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Poor Memory

  • Difficulty Concentrating

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety


World Sepsis Day - September 13

World Sepsis Day was initiated by the Global Sepsis Alliance in 2012. Every year on September 13th, events in all parts of the world raise awareness for sepsis worldwide. There are events for medical professionals, sport activities, photo exhibitions, pink picnics, gala events, dinners, public events such as open houses in hospitals and healthcare facilities, and of course online events, such as campaigns on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, as well as many more social networks.

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For sepsis-related material, please download the fact sheet on sepsis in Africa below or visit the toolkit sections from our friends at World Sepsis Day.