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Stories About Actress Tanya Roberts Say Sepsis

January 8, 2021

Actress Tanya Roberts died from sepsis earlier in the month. So many times, we read news stories and social media posts about people who died of infections – pneumonia, urinary tract infections, even bug bites that became infected. But what media outlets don’t usually say is that most have actually died from sepsis – caused by the infection.

Articles about Ms. Roberts’s death differed here because they actually mentioned sepsis. When they can, journalists do try to educate the public about this life-threatening condition, as in this NBC story and this one from Today.

Reports of a UTI

According to initial news reports, Ms. Roberts, 65, died in the hospital, where she was admitted after she collapsed. Subsequent news reports stated that Ms. Roberts had developed sepsis from a urinary tract infection (UTI).

This new information is important to note because the journalists go on to explain what sepsis is. Both journalists reached out to experts from Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, and Calla Women’s Health, in New York City, who explained what a UTI is and how it can cause sepsis.

UTIs Are Common

Many adult women, between 50% and 60%, develop at least one UTI in their lifetime and they older they get, the more common the infection is.

Sepsis from a UTI, often called urosepsis, is fatal in 30% to 40% of cases, according to a journal article published in November 2020.

To be fair, journalists can only work with what information they have. Often when a famous person dies of sepsis, this isn’t noted in the press releases or shared by the family or publicist. Family members themselves may not have been told about sepsis. They are told that their loved one developed complications from an infection.

Using the word sepsis is important. It helps the public learn the word and what it means. It helps them understand the seriousness of an untreated or under treated infection, and how serious the condition can become.

The team at Sepsis Alliance offers their condolences to Ms. Roberts’s family and those who knew and loved her, and to all the others who have been touched by sepsis.

To learn more about sepsis, visit What is Sepsis. And to see a list of other famous people who have had sepsis, visit Sepsis and Celebrities, part of the Sepsis and… library.

Concerned about sepsis? Call 911 if you or someone you are with is experiencing the following symptoms:


Actress Tanya Roberts died of sepsis.