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Free Seminar Covers Signs and Symptoms of the Body’s Deadly Response to Infection

July 20, 2010

Washington Hospital takes the threat of sepsis very seriously. And you should too, according to Katie Choy, MS, RN-BC, CNS, NEA-BC, Nursing Director of Education and Sepsis Project Director at the hospital.

The fact is that sepsis—which is characterized by the body’s severe response to infection—remains on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list for leading causes of death in the United States. But many people are unaware of the danger, leaving them at increased risk.

To increase public awareness of sepsis, on Monday, July 26, an expert panel of speakers will present a free Health & Wellness seminar from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

"Many people have not heard of the term ‘sepsis,’ which is the body’s overwhelming response to infection," Choy explains. "During the seminar, we will discuss the common causes, risk factors, and treatment."

There are more than 750,000 cases of sepsis diagnosed in the United States annually, she says, and the outcome can be fatal if the symptoms go unrecognized, or if a person does not receive medical attention quickly enough.

Even more alarming, according to Choy, is that the incidence of sepsis is increasing year-after-year, due to a number of factors, making sepsis a long-term challenge for health care professionals.

The increased risk in sepsis may be attributable to:

  • An aging population
  • An increase in the use of implantable devices
  • A growing resistance of bacterial microorganisms to antibiotic therapy
  • Patients’ under-active immune response due to factors such as chemotherapy, organ transplantation, and complex co-morbidities such as diabetes mellitus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), heart disease, renal failure and chronic infection

In particular, people with chronic infections or those with taxed, underdeveloped or weak immune systems can be seen at greater risk.

Risk factors for sepsis include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases, such as cholecystitis, diverticulitis, appendicitis
  • Meningitis, wound infection and bone or joint infection
  • The presence of an intravascular or prosthetic device
  • Recent surgeries

"The most vulnerable population includes children, older adults (age 65-plus), people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes mellitus and cancer, those who are immuno-compromised, and malnourished or debilitating patients," Choy says.

However, it is still just as important for people who fall outside of the high-risk population to know about the warning signs.

In January of last year, the world was shocked when otherwise healthy 20-year-old Brazilian model Mariana Bridi da Costa, whose hands and feet were amputated in a bid to save her, died after seeking medical treatment for a UTI, which developed into sepsis.

Choy urges everyone in the community to seek more information about sepsis since it can very quickly progress from serious to deadly.

"After this seminar, I want community members to walk away with a greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of sepsis so they can seek treatment early to improve their chances of survival in this situation," she says.

To learn more about sepsis and how to recognize it, attend the seminar on Monday, July 26, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register for the seminar, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

For more information about Washington Hospital’s quality initiatives, including the evidence-based sepsis project, visit www.whhs.com/quality and click on the 2010 Annual Quality Report to the Community.