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A life-saving question - could this be sepsis?

For Queenslander Casey Walsh, World Sepsis Day this September is a reminder that when something doesn’t seem quite right to not be afraid to speak up and to always ask, “could it be sepsis?”.

Three years ago, her baby went into septic shock after contracting Parecho virus.

“One night we noticed that Theo wouldn’t stop crying and was quite irritable, but we figured it must be a stomach-ache or something similar, but nothing serious,” she said.

“The following morning, he was quiet, and so we thought he was better and didn’t think anything of it.

“By mid-morning he developed a slight temperature and my husband thought his colour didn’t look quite right and also didn’t want to feed so we eventually decided to take him to the hospital after being encouraged by my mum.

“As soon as we got to the Emergency Department, they took one look at his colour and took us straight through - at that point I knew something was very serious.

“He wasn’t really responding, was developing a bit of a rash and the doctors were having trouble getting a drip into him.

“It turned out that he had gone into septic shock from his body fighting off the virus.

“Thankfully as we were already in the hospital the clinical team were able to continue to monitor him closely and by the end of the week he was thankfully discharged with no long-term developmental issues.

“The strongest message I can give parents is that if something doesn’t seem right, don’t be scared to speak up as sepsis is something that can be quite difficult to diagnose.”
For the year ending August 2020, close to one in five Queenslanders - 18 per cent - has no knowledge of sepsis as a health condition.

This World Sepsis Day, September 13, Queenslanders are being encouraged to recognise the signs and symptoms of sepsis, a potentially deadly condition that kills more adults across Australia than breast, prostate and colorectal cancer combined, and more than the annual national road toll, according to the latest figures.

Chair of Queensland’s Statewide Sepsis Steering Committee, Professor Bala Venkatesh said continued awareness of the signs and symptoms of sepsis was critical, which could be deadly if not identified early.

“Sepsis is a poorly understood life-threatening illness affecting around 21,000 Queenslanders in 2019-20, resulting in 1500 deaths,” he said.

“Sepsis occurs when the body’s own response to an infection damages tissues and organs.

“It can be quite hard to diagnose and is often confused with other common illnesses such as gastroenteritis or the flu.

"This year's World Sepsis Day is occurring in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic, a disease first recognised in late 2019.

“There are several parallels between severe Covid-19 disease, sepsis and septic shock. The principles of management used for treating patients with sepsis are also relevant for those with severe Covid-19.

“Sepsis can also result in lifelong disability, time off work, cognitive impairment, learning difficulties and devastating effects on the families of those affected.

“Quick treatment relies on people being aware of and recognising the symptoms.

“If you think it could be sepsis, don’t wait – seek urgent medical advice by calling 000 or presenting to a hospital emergency department and ask: Could this be sepsis?”

For the signs and symptoms of sepsis visit:

Last updated: 13 September 2020