While diseases like Ebola, flesh-eating bacteria, and MRSA have quickly cemented their place in America’s consciousness, a disease that kills more than 258,000 Americans every year continues to fall short in recognition and awareness: sepsis.
According to the study only 44 percent of Americans had ever heard of sepsis. The survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Sepsis Alliance polled 2,100 U.S. adults and discovered that women were more likely than men to have heard of sepsis, as were those 35 years or older versus those younger than 35.
A similar survey in 2013 found an identical percentage of Americans recognizing sepsis, confirming that most American adults are not familiar with sepsis. That is despite a 2013 statistical brief from a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that singled out sepsis as being the most expensive health condition to treat, costing America’s healthcare system over $20 billion every year.
For the first time, the Sepsis Alliance survey asked those Americans that had heard of sepsis where they heard about it.
Twenty-five percent of respondents recalled learning about sepsis from news and entertainment programs, while 15 percent recalled learning from medical professionals. Thirteen percent of respondents became familiar with sepsis after knowing someone who had sepsis or having it themselves.
“It was surprising to learn that a quarter of the respondents who knew about sepsis had learned about it through news and entertainment programs,” said Thomas Heymann, Executive Director of Sepsis Alliance. “The new Sepsis Alliance survey demonstrates the power of the media and the important role it can play in helping raise awareness of this disease.”
CDC Director Highlights the Need to Raise Awareness
Sometimes referred to as blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often-deadly response to infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that sepsis cases have increased in the U.S. from 621,000 in the year 2000 to 1,141,000 in 2008.
When these cases are spotted and treated early with fluids and antibiotics, thousands of lives can be saved, resulting in billions being saved in healthcare costs.
“Sepsis is devastating to patients and their families. This survey tells us that there is much more work needed to raise awareness,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC. “CDC is committed to protecting patients by increasing sepsis awareness, enhancing prevention and early detection, and improving treatment.”
September is Sepsis Awareness Month
Sepsis Alliance announced the results of this survey as the official start of Sepsis Awareness Month. During the month of September, Sepsis Alliance, volunteers, and health organizations across the country are combining their efforts to raise sepsis awareness.
World Sepsis Day will take place on September 13, 2014, and Sepsis Alliance will host its annual Sepsis Heroes event in New York City on September 18, 2014. Sepsis Alliance has also released a calendar of events to help individuals find and participate in events happening across the country.
“We have a record number of partners participating in this year’s Sepsis Awareness Month,” added Heymann, “but these survey results prove there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Increasing awareness in the general public is essential in helping people advocate for their own health care, stopping this deadly disease in its tracks.”