Even though you may rarely hear about it, sepsis kills more people each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer and HIV/AIDs combined.

In fact, it is the most common cause of hospital deaths in the U.S., ahead of both heart attack and stroke.

Over 1 million cases of sepsis occur in the U.S. each year.

September is national sepsis awareness month and Cottage Health is a national leader in successfully treating sepsis.

“More than a decade ago, Cottage implemented a ‘Slay Sepsis Protocol’ that has dramatically improved survival rates to well above the national average,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fried, who practices and teaches critical care medicine at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

“At Cottage, over 80 percent of patients with septic shock survive, while the national average is approximately 64 percent.”

Former patient Anthony Aria of Santa Barbara was admitted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital after his severe pneumonia had progressed to sepsis.

“I knew something was wrong, I just felt sicker,” said Anthony.

Early detection and quick action by the sepsis team helped him make a full recovery.

Sepsis does not arise on its own. Any type of infection that is anywhere in the body can cause sepsis.

This includes infections in the lungs (such as pneumonia), urinary tract, skin, abdomen (such as appendicitis) or any other part of the body.

Sepsis can occur even after a minor infection.

Common symptoms that an infection has progressed to sepsis include fever and chills, extreme weakness and dizziness, difficulty or rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, rash, excessive thirst and loss of appetite.

Anyone with these symptoms should go to the hospital Emergency Department immediately.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to organ failure, tissue damage and death. In severe cases, one or more organs fail.

In the worst cases, blood pressure drops, the heart weakens and the patient spirals toward septic shock where multiple organs can quickly fail and the patient can die.

Learn more about sepsis symptoms and treatments and find out how to have the “S-Word Talk” with your friends and family at cottagehealth.org/sepsis.

About Cottage Health 

The not-for-profit Cottage Health is the leader in providing advanced medical care to the Central Coast region. 

Specialties include the Cottage Children’s Medical Center, Level 2 Trauma Center, Neuroscience Institute, Heart & Vascular Center, Center for Orthopedics, and Rehabilitation Hospital.

The Cottage Health medical staff is comprised of more than 700 physicians, many with subspecialties typically found only at university medical centers.

Last year, the Cottage Health hospitals in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley provided inpatient care for 19,000 people, treated 76,000 patients through their 24-hour emergency departments and helped deliver 2,200 newborns.

– Maria Zate represents Cottage Health.