Most Aussies can't identify life-threatening sepsis

Most Australians cannot identify symptoms of a condition killing more than 8000 people each year.

So a new campaign is calling on people to learn the signs and when illness appears, ask: "Could it be sepsis?"

The life-threatening disease is caused by the body's immune system going into overdrive to fight a bacterial infection, damaging organs and tissue.

At least 55,000 people develop sepsis each year with more than 8000 dying of sepsis-related complications.

About seven in 10 Australians cannot identify sepsis, according to support and awareness organisation Sepsis Australia.

There is no single test for sepsis.

As well as many causes, it has many possible signs and symptoms.

They include getting very sick very quickly, difficulty breathing, confusion, a rash or blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it.

Symptoms can begin as fever or shivering, tiredness, vomiting, headache, pain around a wound and a rapid pulse.

Pediatric specialist Matthew O’Meara said a person with sepsis often reports feeling the sickest they have ever felt.

"We want people to pay close attention to the symptoms, and seek urgent medical care if symptoms get worse," he said.

"You may only have some of the symptoms of sepsis, and features can initially be subtle."

Even when healthcare workers diagnose a different condition or a patient has been sent home, parents and caregivers are urged to watch for the signs of sepsis and ask doctors and nurses if the illness is sepsis.

In young children, symptoms that may indicate severe illness include being quietness, irritability, high-pitched crying, fewer wet nappies, cold or mottled limbs and breathing difficulties.

"We urge people to trust their instincts, especially parents who are the experts in their child’s behaviour," Dr O'Meara said.

With awareness in multicultural communities a particular concern, a new three-month campaign across NSW will see ads in Aboriginal, Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese press, some radio spots and other material.

"It's important people aren’t afraid and are empowered, to ask, ‘Could it be sepsis?’ because early treatment can be lifesaving," NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said.

It follows several high-profile deaths in recent years including the death of seven-year-old Aishwarya Chavittupara in a busy Perth emergency ward in 2021.

Her death sparked major outrage and thrust the management of the state hospital system into the spotlight.

Broken Hill teenager Alex Braes died waiting for a transfer to a city hospital in 2017 after a late diagnosis while pregnant Indigenous woman Naomi Williams' symptoms were dismissed and she was sent home hours before dying from a rural NSW hospital in 2016.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store