Guest Blog: Sepsis – A Neglected Global Killer (CUGH)

Guest Blogger: Amanda Hirsch

Sepsis can be caused by any serious infection that leads to multi-organ dysfunction. Diseases that most commonly lead to sepsis infection are pneumonia, TB, HIV/AIDS, dengue, diarrheal diseases, etc. Multi organ dysfunction can lead to death if not recognized and treated early.

Every year, approximately 30 million cases of sepsis are documented. However, it is speculated that the 30 million known cases only comprise a portion of the actual incidence of sepsis each year. Recognition and documentation of sepsis cases is lacking and the exact global burden of sepsis remains unknown.

Many deaths that occur due to sepsis are attributed to the original disease. For example, if a patient succumbs to sepsis after contracting pneumonia, their cause of death will likely be recorded as pneumonia. Secondly, late mortality from sepsis contributes to its underreporting. Many sepsis infections occur after a patient is discharged from the hospital. Yet, very few patients return to seek help for their rapidly advanced infection, resulting in a mortality due to sepsis.

The highest burden of sepsis infections occurs especially in low income countries. The lack of resilient health systems, little public education and awareness, costs of healthcare, long distances to healthcare facilities, and poor transportation all make it difficult for individuals to seek and receive care for sepsis. Also in poor countries, low immunization rates, low coverage for citizens, high levels of disease co-morbidity, unprepared or undertrained healthcare workers, a low emphasis on preventative services, few new drugs for tropical diseases circling through the market, and the export of healthcare staff make sepsis significantly more of a threat.

This underrepresentation of sepsis and lacking preparedness and recognition in the healthcare world has pushed members of organizations such as the Global Sepsis Alliance to call for help- bringing public awareness to the unacceptably high current incidence of morbidity and mortality from sepsis, asserting that something must be done.

To curb the incidence of sepsis, a multi-faceted approach is needed. This approach, according to Dr. Ron Daniels includes the following:

  • Vaccinations
  • Strict hygiene
  • Early recognition
  • Aggressive treatment
  • Rational us of antimicrobials
  • Innovations in care
  • Knowledge translation
  • Capacity building
  • Advocacy

On the topic of advocacy, Dr. Daniels spoke of turning sepsis into a political movement of sorts, putting a face and a name to the infection and what it includes. The public must be educated on the signs and symptoms, the media must spread the word, and governments must allow for more data to be collected, support more funding for sepsis research and treatment, and use their power and platform to make sepsis a priority on both the national and international political arenas.

twitter photoAmanda Hirsch is a summer Global Health intern for APHA. She is starting her final undergraduate year at the GWU Milken Institute School of Public Health. Her passion for global health began in rural Honduras, and she is particularly interested in disparities in healthcare systems that affect the Latino community. She intends to pursue an MPH degree with a dual concentration in Community-Oriented Primary Care and Global Health. You can follow her on Twitter at @amandahirsch12.

Open IH Section Meeting at the CUGH Conference

The following is a message from Paul Freeman, Chair of the IH Section.

I would like to bring to your attention the Consortium of Universities for Global Conference. Note also as described below we will be hosting a meeting during this event.

Early Bird Discounted Rates Extended for CUGH March 2013 Conference Washington Marriott Wardman Park D.C.
New Deadline: February 15, 2013

Global Health: Innovation | Implementation | Impact
March 14-16, 2013
Washington DC, USA
Don’t miss the opportunity to join 1,500 Global Health experts and professionals convening to explore the many facets of global health. To register go to and follow the links.

Have your voice heard in Global Health work and advocacy in an independent well established national organization.

An open meeting of the International Health Section of the American Public Health Association will be held during the CUGH conference.
Site: At Conference, Washington Marriott Wardman Park Ballroom Balcony A
When: Friday, March 15th at 6:30pm

This meeting is an open forum where key members of the International Health Section of the APHA will inform you about what we do in relation to Global Health, solicit your views on how we can improve our work together, and demonstrate to you the advantages of joining us. Our 1,500 members already include members from across the full spectrum of professionals working in Global Health. Members of CUGH and GHC are especially invited.