Sepsis: The flu-like symptoms that could signal the deadly condition – ‘react fast’

Sepsis: Dr Chris reveals how to reduce risk of infection

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Sepsis is believed to kill around 50,000 people every year in the UK. The deadly infection can cause blockages inside the blood vessels, which result in the formation of gangrene – a condition which necessitates amputation. Alternatively, the condition can kill in a matter of hours. Sepsis – also known as septicaemia – has a wide range of symptoms that often mimic other conditions. Five signs, however, are strongly linked to the condition and should not be ignored. 

Estimates based on data from hospitals in seven wealthy countries suggest the condition is far more prevalent than figures account for.

Scientists last year found sepsis was responsible for twice as many deaths than had previously been thought.

Colin Graham, chief operating officer as Sepsis Research, explains further research is needed to better understand the condition.

He added: “Many people are still unaware of how serious sepsis is.

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“That’s why raising awareness of this deadly condition is vital, so more people are able to recognise the signs.

“Sepsis can be mistaken for the flu as symptoms are sometimes similar, but the difference is that these symptoms worsen rapidly when sepsis is the cause.

“The most important thing is to react fast and seek urgent medical attention as this can improve chances of survival.”


The condition has a broad range of symptoms which are associated with many other illnesses, making early detection challenging.

There are, however, five key symptoms linked to the condition:

High/low temperature: One of the first signs to arouse suspicion is a sudden drop or rise in body temperature.

Confusion: Septic shock can cause sudden changes in an individual’s mental states – such as confusion or disorientation.

Passing little urine: Sepsis can cause multiple organs to fail, including the kidneys. Kidney failure can lead to a drop in urine output.

Blotchy or cold arms and legs: Septic shock can cause the body’s tissues to die, as nutrients are unable to travel to the tissues in the body’s extremities. This may cause the skin to appear blotchy, and sometimes blue.

Uncontrolled shivering: A sudden attack of sepsis will cause severe shivering – which signals the body is fighting infection.

A study published in the Lancet in 2018, found that there were 77,996 cases and 15,851 deaths formally attributed to sepsis in England between 2016-2017.

Following a more recent study, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, researchers believed the figures were much higher in 2017, at 47,860 deaths and 245,783 cases.

For their investigation, researchers analysed 109 million death records relating to 282 different causes of death.

After determining the number of cases in which sepsis was a factor, they looked at 8.6 million hospital records to assess death rates.

They said: “There were 18.9 million estimated sepsis cases and 11 million sepsis-related deaths worldwide in 2017, representing 19.7 percent of all global death.”

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