Why disaster medicine is increasingly focused on sepsis

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Sepsis is often associated with something going wrong during a hospital procedure or stay. That’s likely due in part to a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that one out of three hospital patients who pass away have sepsis. However, a more telling statistic is that almost 87% of sepsis cases begin outside hospitals.
Sepsis is a systemic infection that usually starts out as a bacterial infection. If an infection causes an unusual or extreme response by a person’s body, it can disrupt multiple systems.

How disasters can lead to sepsis

Disasters – natural or man-made – can cause an infection that leads to sepsis. Trauma and burns – both common in many disasters – can trigger such an infection. Those who survive the disaster and don’t require hospitalization are often forced to shelter somewhere other than their home in crowded, unsanitary conditions or even outside.
Those most vulnerable to sepsis (senior citizens, infants, immunocompromised people and those with chronic or recent illnesses) are most likely to be in danger of sepsis after a disaster. However, anyone could be at risk. That’s why sepsis has become an increasing focus for those involved in disaster medicine – particularly in light of the growing number of climate disaster events like fires, storms and flooding.

Disaster medicine specialists want more training for emergency personnel

During and after a disaster, emergency medical personnel understandably focus on triaging people and dealing with those with immediately life-threatening injuries first. However, those specializing in disaster medicine are training first responders and those who practice emergency medicine to recognize potential signs of sepsis and prioritize care for those at greatest risk. As the head of Sepsis Alliance says, “Accurate and comprehensive sepsis education for healthcare providers is one of our best tools in the fight against sepsis.”
Not everyone affected by a disaster needs or seeks emergency medical care. However, many people do have to leave their homes for a time. When they return, they may be without clean water, electricity and other necessities. If you or a loved one begins experiencing the symptoms associated with sepsis (or any concerning symptoms), it’s crucial to seek medical care. A timely, accurate diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death.