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Sepsis kills more than 8000 Australians per year, but over half of us have never heard of it

Shocking new research has revealed sepsis kills twice as many Australians as previously thought, but more than half of us have never ever heard of the medical condition.

A new study published in The Lancet revealed in 2017 there were 49 million cases of sepsis worldwide, and 11 million people died from the condition.

In Australia, an estimated 55,000 people contract the condition annually, and there are 8700 deaths per year as a result.

Professor Simon Finfer, from the George Institute for Global Health, said 60 per cent of Australians don’t know what sepsis is, and even fewer can name its symptoms.

“Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your body’s response to an infection damages your own organs and tissues,” he explained to 3AW’s Ross and John.

“If not treated promptly it causes failure of multiple organs and causes death.”

Professor Finfer said the condition presents similarly to the flu in its early stages, making early diagnosis, which is critical to increasing the likelihood of survival, difficult.

“Then if it’s progressing you will experience things like rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, a very rapid heart rate, mental confusion,” he said.

“Even if you’ve been to the doctor and been told ‘don’t worry, it’s the flu’ or whatever, if you start experiencing those sorts of symptoms you must get medical treatment as soon as possible.

“Every hour that antibiotic therapy is delayed, once [sepsis] starts having effects on blood pressure, increases risk of dying by four to eight per cent.”

Sepsis can result from any infection, but the most common causes in Australia are respiratory infections or intra-abdominal problems like gall stones, kidney stones, bowel ruptures and urinary tract infections.

Young children are particularly susceptible to the condition and it becomes serious more quickly in kids.

“It can have a very, very rapid onset in children,” Professor Finfer warned.

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