Time to put sepsis on the global health agenda: World Sepsis Day 2016

September 13 is World Sepsis Day, a day raising awareness of one of the most common deadly diseases in the world, which affects many people in China.

Sepsis, also known blood poisoning, is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection results in organ dysfunction or failure. It is often confused with other conditions early on, and delayed recognition of the signs and symptoms can lead to multi-system organ failure and ultimately death.

Professor Simon Finfer, of The George Institute for Global Health and the Global Sepsis Alliance, and Professor Du Bin of Peking Union Medical College Hospital and the Chinese Society of Critical Care Medicine both say it is time sepsis was put at the top of the health agenda around the world.

Globally Sepsis kills up to 5.3 million people each year and is more common than heart attacks. In China, an estimated 4.8 million people suffer sepsis each year and sepsis causes around one million deaths, says Professor Du Bin.

“Despite advances in modern medicine like vaccines, antibiotics, and acute care, around the world sepsis takes the lives of almost one in three people that contract it. But, most people don’t even know what sepsis is, let alone how to recognised the symptoms.

“People at greatest risk of sepsis are those over the age of 60, individuals living with a chronic illness and/or undergoing chemotherapy, newborn babies and their mothers, and people who are not vaccinated against common illnesses, including influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia.

“Sepsis strikes fast and is always the result of an infection. The public is largely unaware that deaths from infections like SARS, H1N1, Ebola, malaria, for example, are all due to sepsis.”

“Even though sepsis is among the world’s leading preventable causes of death, sepsis does not feature in authorative death or burden of disease statistics globally. This data is critical for health planning in already over stretched health systems to prevent sepsis, with the greatest need for action in low and middle income countries where the burden of sepsis is greatest.”

To stem the rising tide of sepsis and take steps towards reducing the number of deaths it causes, the Global Sepsis Alliance is calling on every country to establish a national action plan by 2020: see their World Sepsis Declaration.

The Global Sepsis Alliance also recently held the 1st World Sepsis Congress, a free online conference with 15,000 organisations and clinicians around the world registering to listen in.