Coronavirus (COVID-19)

When the novel coronavirus, SARS-Co-2, which causes COVID-19, began to spread, the healthcare community didn’t know what to expect. It quickly became obvious that COVID-19 was a serious infection. It also turned out that severe COVID-19 is viral sepsis.

Coronaviruses themselves are not new and for the most part, they aren’t usually serious. The common cold is a coronavirus, for example. But so are more serious infections, like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). What these infections all have in common is their symptoms: coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and fever. When a new coronavirus is identified, it’s called a novel coronavirus until it’s given an official name.

What makes this coronavirus special?

COVID-19, first discovered in December 2019, was a new virus with no known previous history. Scientists had to scramble to find the virus origins, how it behaved, and what might kill it or prevent it from spreading. Although it had similar symptoms to seasonal influenza, SARS, MERS, and other illnesses, COVID-19 was not the same. And because it was a new virus, scientists had a lot to learn about the infection.

Since the spread of COVID-19 began, new mutations began to circulate. This is not unusual. As viruses spread and contaminate more people, they often mutate as well. There are several COVID-19 virus mutations.

How serious is COVID-19?

The short answer is “it is very serious.” While many people who contract the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, and fever, this coronavirus affects some people harder than others, causing severe cases of pneumonia.  This could lead to viral sepsis and result in death.

Some children who contract COVID-19 also develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). It occurs when “different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs,” according to the CDC.

On September 21, 2020, the American Medical Association added the following to their website: “Surviving severe COVID-19 means surviving viral sepsis. And while there is little published data on long-term outcomes of severe COVID-19, what is known is that recovering from sepsis caused by other pathogens is a long and difficult process that includes, among other things, increased odds of cognitive impairment and functional limitations—even down to inability to bathe, toilet or dress independently.”

Are sepsis survivors at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?

Overall, sepsis survivors are at risk of contracting infections within a few months of their recovery. This would include any infection, including COVID-19. However, there is no scientific literature yet that shows a connection between surviving sepsis and developing the new coronavirus.

Many people who contract COVID-19 recover without any further medical problems. However, some survivors don’t recover completely and experience continuing or new physical and mental ailments. This has been called “long COVID” by many. The CDC lists many health issues that COVID-19 survivors may face.

Testing for COVID-19

If you have any signs of COVID-19 (cough, fever, shortness of breath) and you have reason to believe you were in contact with someone who was recently in an infected area or is showing signs of illness too, speak with your doctor.

Preventing COVID-19

This virus spreads the same was as the flu.  Therefore, the best way to reduce your risk of infection is by being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines, wearing masks when in contact with others in indoor spaces or packed outdoor spaces, and thorough and complete hand washing with soap and water. Hand sanitizers should be used when you’re not near a sink. Also, avoiding touching your face (including your eyes) when you are outside.

If you have any type of infection, including a respiratory virus like COVID-19, isolate yourself from others to prevent spreading the virus. Rest as much as you can and monitor your progress. If you get worse or show any signs of sepsis, go to your local emergency room or call 911.

COVID-19 vaccines

Scientists all over the world began working on a vaccine for COVID-19 almost as soon as the virus was identified. Unlike other vaccine development, which is done in solitary labs over long periods, researchers collaborated with one another, sharing findings. This sped up what they knew about the virus and possible angles to use as a vaccine. Researchers also used an approach that is new to the public, but not to scientists: mRNA technology.

This technology has been studied for several years, according to the CDC. Unlike other vaccines that carry live weakened or dead viruses, mRNA vaccines allow the body’s cells to make proteins that trigger an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. This helps the immune system create antibodies against the virus.

There are some misconceptions related to mRNA technology, one being that it changes a person’s DNA. This is not possible. The advantage to an mRNA vaccine is that it can be produced and adapted quickly to new variants, if necessary. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech was first out of the gate with its 2-step vaccine, closely followed by Moderna, also with a 2-step vaccine.

Other vaccines use other technologies. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a virus, an adenovirus, that causes colds. When it is injected, the body creates an immune response, so if the recipient is exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, it should recognize the virus as an intruder and defend the body against it. It is also a 2-step vaccine.


The U.S. now has these approved COVID-19 vaccines.



Suggested Citation: Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Coronavirus (COVID-19). 2023.

Updated February 10, 2023.

Read Personal Stories of Sepsis and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Valli Williams

Actually I’m a survivor and this is a tribute. In Jan 2020 my father was having surgery scheduled in March to fix the infection in his foot from a previous surgery. (Sepsis and Surgery) He went into the hospital Feb 9,2020 and the last time I saw him there was Feb 14, 2020, when he told me what song to sing at his funeral (he loved to hear me sing) and told me he wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital. The infection traveled to his blood and gave him heart failure and eventually kidney failure. He ended ... Read Full Story

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Samantha Cercena

While most were out celebrating and with their families, I got ring in 2022 in an ICU, alone, and on a vent. My sepsis journey started in 2020 when I contracted COVID-19. (Sepsis and COVID-19) Following my infection I developed the illness gastroparesis. By the beginning of 2021 I was using a feeding tube for all my nutritional needs. In November of 2021 my physicians decided that the tube wasn’t enough and put a central line in my chest to start TPN. I have no memory of the week before New Years, but I’ve learned from my family that my ... Read Full Story

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Robin Reyes

A little about me… I’m a wife, a mom, a Catholic; I was a business owner of 21 years before getting sick. Always active, I love adventure, whether traveling the world or across our great USA, climbing up or skiing down a mountain. I’m a yogi, scuba diver, health nut, I love to cook, garden, craft. I cherish nature, a place of solace and adventure, to renew my soul, to admire and give thanks for God’s great creation. From my mountains to the sea… I love life! Before getting sick, I’ve always been incredibly healthy, albeit run-down as most working ... Read Full Story

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Corey Cocke

After 4 weeks of illness from covid 19 and getting sicker by the day..I laid down to take a nap. Woke up shaking, colder than I’d ever been. After about 10 mins of trying to get warm my family called 911. Took the ER about 36 hour too figure out I had sepsis. (Sepsis and COVID-19) I lost consciousness in route to ER. Took 5 days for me even realize I was still alive. Days 1 through 4 I was given 10% chance of survival. Been home 7 weeks now. Already had a relapse of leg infection. And wondering if ... Read Full Story

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Heidi Lien

I contracted Covid-19 and I was 29 weeks pregnant. (Sepsis and COVID-19, Sepsis and Pregnancy & Childbirth) I had it pretty rough for two weeks and at 30 weeks pregnant I noticed decreased fetal movement and went to the hospital for monitoring. It was found that my son was no longer thriving in the womb due to placentitis of SARS COVID2, my placenta was abrupting and he needed to be delivered via emergency c-section within the hour. After he was born I was closed up and put in a room to recover before heading to a postpartum room. It was ... Read Full Story

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

When the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, began to spread, we didn’t know what to expect. It quickly became obvious that COVID-19 was a serious infection. It also turned out that severe COVID-19 is viral sepsis.