Sepsis: A Word to Know, a Meaning to Learn

August 28, 2017

Annual Sepsis Alliance Awareness Survey reveals that awareness is on the rise, but less than 1% can identify symptoms and one-third still believe it is contagious

SAN DIEGO, CA – Sepsis awareness is on the rise, with 58 percent of Americans saying they know the word, according to the latest survey by Sepsis Alliance, conducted by Radius Global Market Research among more than 2,000 adults in June and July 2017. In the last 10 years, sepsis awareness has more than tripled from 19 percent aware in 2007, according to research by Sepsis Alliance, the leading nonprofit patient sepsis advocacy organization in North America.

While the awareness results are cause for optimism, some concerning details also emerged from the study:

  • More Americans have heard of Ebola, a nearly non-existent condition in the U.S. than sepsis, a condition that affects more than 1.6 million Americans every year.3
  • 39 percent of Americans incorrectly believe sepsis is contagious
  • Approximately 72 percent of Americans can identify symptoms of a stroke, yet less than one percent can correctly identify the most common sepsis symptoms.

“We are extremely heartened to see that more people are becoming aware of sepsis but we still have work to do to educate the public about what sepsis is, the symptoms and the importance of rapid response,” said Thomas Heymann, Executive Director of Sepsis Alliance. “Sepsis is a medical emergency requiring early detection and treatment, making recognizing symptoms critical to saving lives. The risk of death from sepsis increases by nearly 8 percent for each hour treatment is delayed.”

Sepsis is an extreme response to an infection. It is life threatening and, without the right treatment, can cause organ failure, amputation, and death. Sepsis kills more than a quarter of a million Americans every year,1 more than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.2 Many of those lives could be saved with expanded health provider education and improved public awareness of the signs, symptoms and development of sepsis.

“The fact that the Sepsis Alliance Awareness Survey revealed that the public’s awareness of sepsis has risen to 58% is excellent,” said Steven Simpson, MD, FCCP, FACP and Chief Medical Officer for Sepsis Alliance. “For people to suspect sepsis and get treatment, they need to first understand what it is and how it manifests itself. Sepsis is not contagious, nor is it spread within hospitals. We strive to keep educating all Americans that sepsis can develop from any type of infection – internal or external – and at any time.”

Sepsis attacks the young and the old, the generally well, and the sick. The best way to prevent sepsis is through promptly treating infections, staying up-to-date on vaccines and thoroughly cleaning wounds.

The most common symptoms of sepsis are:

  • Shivering, fever, or very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Short of breath
  • High heart rate

In 2011, Sepsis Alliance officially designated September as Sepsis Awareness Month, which is now recognized internationally by sepsis advocates, shining a spotlight on sepsis by spreading the word around the globe. In addition, on September 14, 2017, Sepsis Alliance will host the sixth annual Sepsis Heroes gala in New York City, honoring individuals and organizations which have helped raise sepsis awareness.

For more information on sepsis and Sepsis Alliance, please visit

Download and View Survey

2017 survey results can be found at:

Survey Methodology

Sepsis Alliance commissioned Radius Global Market Research to conduct an online survey on their behalf among over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older between June 30- July 5, 2017 to measure sepsis awareness among parents. The results were weighted to the US census for age, gender and region. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

About Sepsis Alliance

Sepsis Alliance is North America’s leading nonprofit patient sepsis advocacy organization with a mission is to save lives by raising awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. Sepsis education for the public and healthcare professionals is at the forefront of all initiatives, which include hosting national and community events, distributing programming information and materials, as well as, training and education on sepsis prevention and early recognition and treatment. Sepsis Alliance officially designated September as Sepsis Awareness Month in 2011, which is now celebrated internationally by sepsis advocates and works to further raise sepsis awareness. The website receives more than 1.5 million visits each year and sepsis awareness in the U.S. has more than tripled since Sepsis Alliance’s founding in 2007. Sepsis Alliance, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is a GuideStar Gold Rated Charity. For more information, please visit