Scourge killing 2000 Queenslanders a year

 

MORE than 2000 Queenslanders are dying of sepsis every year, alarming new figures show.

The latest Queensland Health data reveals 20,860 people were admitted to public hospitals in 2018 with sepsis - a life-threatening illness triggered by the body's immune response to infection.

That's 18 per cent higher than in 2016.

Sepsis occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. This can cause a cascade of changes that damage multiple organs, sometimes resulting in death.

The release of Queensland's sepsis statistics coincides with Federal flu data showing Queensland is close to surpassing 60,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza this year, with 59,130 patients diagnosed, officially making 2019 the state's worst flu season on record.

That's well over the 56,592 Queenslanders diagnosed in 2017 - the previous record year.

 

Mia Wilkinson, 6, lost her hands and feet to sepsis following a bout of the flu in 2017. PicTURE: Peter Wallis
Mia Wilkinson, 6, lost her hands and feet to sepsis following a bout of the flu in 2017. PicTURE: Peter Wallis

Intensive care specialist Bala Venkatesh, the chair of Queensland Health's statewide sepsis steering committee, said flu could make people more susceptible to other infections, and sometimes they developed sepsis.

"In some patients, the body's response to combat infection can result in damage to their tissues and organs," Professor Venkatesh said. "That's when it becomes sepsis. It's a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment. The sooner treatment starts, the better the outcomes are likely to be.

"Sepsis can result in death, or permanent disability from amputations, or brain damage."

So far in 2019, Queensland Health has reported 126 flu-related deaths. In most cases they have died from sepsis.

Queensland is the first state in Australia to launch a public sepsis awareness campaign.

Professor Venkatesh said signs of sepsis in adults could include rapid breathing, a rapid heart rate, confusion, slurred speech or disorientation, not passing much urine and a rash or discoloured skin.

Sepsis can progress particularly rapidly in children, who can experience convulsions, be difficult to rouse, have pale or bluish skin and develop a rash that does not fade when pressed.

Queensland Health advises that if sepsis symptoms develop, call triple-0 or present to a hospital emergency department and ask: "Could this be sepsis?"

Brisbane-based six-year-old Mia Wilkinson lost her hands and feet to sepsis following a bout of the flu in 2017.


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