Photo: Laurianne Aeby

“People need to be made more aware of sepsis”

Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated response to an infection. Thierry Calandra talks about what steps have to be taken to limit the risk posed by a condition that is as serious as it is unknown.

Nearly 31 million cases of sepsis are reported every year throughout the world. In Switzerland, the CHUV Emergency Ward noted nearly 400 cases of sepsis during a census it took in 2012. Head of the Infectious Disease Service at CHUV, Thierry Calandra points out the need to improve the public’s knowledge of this issue.

The number of sepsis cases is increasing. However, this disease is still not well known among the public. What is the situation in Switzerland?

We are behind other countries like Germany, which has conducted several public awareness campaigns. There is an urgent need to inform people about sepsis so they can learn to identify the symptoms more quickly.

There is an urgent need to inform people about sepsis so they can learn to identify the symptoms more quickly.

A survey about people’s knowledge of sepsis was conducted in various countries a few years ago. Germany was ranked first. Fifty percent of people there had heard of sepsis. This figure was 40% in UK, 20% in Sweden and 7% in Brazil. Switzerland is on a par with Sweden. People need to be made more aware.

What is being done to improve this situation?

We need to create the appropriate structures such as groups and organisations and include sepsis survivors in order to carry out educational and public awareness campaigns. Sepsis has become a priority for the World Health Organization, which adopted a resolution to spread the word about the disease.

What steps can hospitals take to fight the spread of the disease?

It is important to educate paramedical personnel like ambulance drivers and other healthcare staff so they can quickly recognise the signs of sepsis. At CHUV, we provide general training sessions in each unit, but we need to address this issue more specifically. In order to reduce the risk of mortality and serious side effects, we should also create specialised units or centres to quickly treat septic patients. It takes hours to receive treatment at a hospital. The Surviving Sepsis Campaign issued recommendations about the actions that should be taken in the first three hours of diagnosis to reduce mortality risk. ⁄