What you need to know about sepsis and COVID-19

Westmead Hospital critical infection expert Professor Jon Iredell.

This World Sepsis Day, September 13, experts from the Clinical Excellence Commission are reminding health professionals to be alert for signs and symptoms of sepsis, including patients with COVID-19, and to be ready to ask ‘Could it be sepsis?’. 

Severe sepsis or septic shock is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. In fact, sepsis is one of the ways which COVID-19 can cause serious implications.

Sepsis is a medical emergency and early recognition and treatment saves lives. Good COVID-19 care includes fast and timely sepsis identification and management.

Clinical Excellence Commission Director Systems Improvement Dr Harvey Lander said sepsis occurs when the body’s response to infection injures its own tissues and organs.  It can lead to shock, multi-organ failure, long-term disability and death.

“If your patient has signs and symptoms of infection always ask; “`Could it be sepsis?’,” Dr Lander said.

Sepsis symptoms may include:

  • fast breathing or heart rate;
  • slurred speech;
  • confusion;
  • fever or feeling very cold;
  • muscle pain;
  • low urine output;
  • skin mottled or discoloured;
  • feeling extremely unwell (worse than ever before).

A range of resources on identifying and treating sepsis are available on the Clinical Excellence Commission SEPSIS KILLS webpage and the World Sepsis Day webpage

Clinical Excellence Commission are sharing resources and discussions about World Sepsis Day on their social media. Follow them on LinkedIn @Clinical Excellence Commission, Twitter @NSWCEC; @sepsis_kills and use #sepsis, #wsd20, #worldsepsisday and #fightagainstsepsis when posting tweets.