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World Sepsis Day aims to raise awareness for an overlooked health issue

Toronto, September 13, 2012

By Navindra Budhram

World Sepsis Day 2012

Sepsis kills about 1,400 people a day worldwide and is the second-leading cause of death in intensive care units in Canada. Despite intense research, the death rate remains high, between 30 and 50 per cent. It also causes more deaths each year than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.

Sept. 13 marks the first World Sepsis Day, a global initiative to increase public awareness about sepsis, a leading cause of death and disability for millions of people around the world. World Sepsis Day was developed by the Global Sepsis Alliance, or GSA, a collaborative effort between various organizations dedicated to combating sepsis and raising its profile.

“No country seems to handle sepsis well, mainly because it has always been below the radar of the public and health professionals,” said Dr. John Marshall, surgeon and intensivist at St. Michael’s Hospital and a council member of the GSA.

World Sepsis Day will feature a plethora of events taking place in 20 countries, including Canada, the United States, England, Germany, South Korea and India. Sepsis Heroes 2012, for example, will take place in New York City. The event will honour individuals with sepsis and health care professionals across the country who promote sepsis awareness and education.

Sepsis is a three-stage, life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s immune response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs.

“We tend to think of disease as something from the outside and not from the inside. And because sepsis develops only as the result of an existing disease or condition, it doesn’t get framed as sepsis,” said Dr. Marshall.

A person’s chances of survival depends on receiving successful treatment for the infection that led to sepsis, including broad-range antibiotics and any other treatment necessary to eliminate the cause of infection. This treatment must also be supported by suitable steps to stabilize blood circulation, like infusions and medicine.

World Sepsis Day organizers suggest four methods for preventing sepsis, including vaccinations, sanitation, clean deliveries (child birth) and proper hand-hygiene.

Many high-profile individuals have died as a result of sepsis, including Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, in 1990, and Pope John Paul II in 2005. The latter died of sepsis as a result of a urinary tract infection.

For more information about World Sepsis Day, please visit

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