Americans More Aware Of Many Rare Diseases Than Sepsis, According to New Sepsis Alliance Survey

September 15, 2015

New Survey Finds Sepsis, 3rd Leading Killer in U.S., is Less Known Than Ebola, Malaria and ALS

San Diego, CA (September 15, 2015) Last year, a total of three people in the U.S. contracted Ebola, with one patient eventually dying from the disease. During that same period, more than one million people developed sepsis, and more than 258,000 of those patients died. Yet, Ebola has much higher level of awareness among Americans as sepsis does, according to a new survey of American adults released today by Sepsis Alliance.

To gauge awareness of sepsis, Sepsis Alliance commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online survey in June 2015. Over 2,000 U.S. adults participated in the survey, which asked about their knowledge of various illnesses. The results were striking, as most Americans are at least somewhat aware of relatively rare illnesses in the U.S., such as Ebola (86%), ALS (74%), and malaria (76%), while only 47% of Americans are as aware about sepsis.

“What is particularly startling about these findings is the fact that people are more aware of illnesses that are statistically less likely to pose a threat to themselves or their loved ones, while sepsis, which devastates over a million people every year, remains largely unknown,” said Thomas Heymann, Executive Director of Sepsis Alliance.

Sometimes referred to as blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often-deadly response to infection. When spotted and treated early with fluids and antibiotics, thousands of sepsis patients can be saved both domestically and around the globe.

“People need to know about sepsis so that they can recognize the symptoms and seek emergency help,” said Heymann. “As the survey shows, we have much work to do, and together with industry partners, government, and the general public, we can help get people talking about sepsis, before it’s too late.”

American adults are also unaware of the financial drain that sepsis places on hospitals every year. The survey asked adults to identify which diseases are the most costly to the U.S. medical system. Over half (56%) identified any other conditions including heart attacks, childbirth, and respiratory failure, as being more costly than sepsis. Another third (36%) are simply unsure as to what condition had the highest expenses.

Only 8% correctly answered that sepsis is the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals. According to 2011 data studied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals spent over $20 billion per year for acute sepsis care alone. Sepsis was also the most expensive condition billed to Medicare, accounting for 6.9% of all Medicare costs incurred.

Download and View Survey

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Sepsis Alliance from June 19-23, 2015 among over 2,000 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

About Sepsis Alliance

Sepsis Alliance is the leading nonprofit patient advocacy organization in North America promoting awareness of sepsis. Sepsis Alliance’s mission is to save lives by raising awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. The organization hosts national and community events, distributes educational information, and promotes training and education of sepsis and its devastating effects. Sepsis Alliance also provides support by giving patients and family members information about sepsis and Post Sepsis Syndrome, as well as a community forum to share their experiences. Sepsis Alliance, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is a GuideStar Gold Rated Charity and a founding member of the Global Sepsis Alliance. For more information, please visit

About The Harris Poll

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples.  With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.