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null Identifying and treating sepsis during its early stages improve a patient’s chances for survival

Identifying and treating sepsis during its early stages improve a patient’s chances for survival

For Immediate Release:  2018-09-20

Contact:  Liz Martin, (315) 671-6408

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year in the United States, more than 1.7 million people are diagnosed with sepsis. The sepsis death toll, which stands at 270,000 each year, exceeds annual deaths in the U.S. from breast cancer, prostate cancer and AIDS combined.

Sepsis occurs when an infection triggers a serious inflammatory response throughout the body. Leading causes of sepsis include such common infections as cellulitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and diverticulitis. Without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

“Identifying and treating sepsis during its early stage is very important,” said Richard Lockwood, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Early treatment with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids improve chances for survival.”

Lockwood suggests that people who are recovering from a medical procedure or surgery, especially those who are elderly, very young, have chronic health conditions or have weak immune systems, be carefully monitored. The CDC lists any combination of the following as symptoms of sepsis:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

“Act fast and get medical care immediately if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse,” said Lockwood. Treatment consists of finding the source of the infection, administering antibiotics and maintaining blood flow to vital organs.

To prevent the onset of an infection that could lead to sepsis, Lockwood recommends:

  • Practicing good hygiene, including properly washing hands and cleaning cuts
  • Discussing with your doctor the best ways to prevent infections
  • Getting recommended vaccines
  • Being aware of the warning signs of sepsis
  • Seeking medical care immediately if an infection does not get better or worsens

In upstate New York, the rate of sepsis admissions per 1,000 adults was 4.68 in 2017. By region, the rate of 2017 sepsis admissions per 1,000 adults was:

  • Central New York Region – 3.59 (2,000 adults)
  • Western New York Region – 7.39 (9,000 adults)
  • Finger Lakes Region – 5.65 (4,800 adults)
  • Utica/Rome/North Country Region – 4.00 (3,000 adults)
  • Southern Tier Region – 3.70 (1,500 adults)

An Excellus BlueCross BlueShield infographic about the warning signs of sepsis is available free to download at a PDF.

To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit