Posted on September 25, 2018

RCSI is urging people to recognise the signs and symptoms of sepsis, a silent killer associated with seven deaths per day in Irish hospitals. To mark World Sepsis Day on Thursday 13 September, RCSI will lead a campaign which will see landmark buildings in Ireland turn pink to raise awareness of sepsis.

Sepsis can occur following an infection in any part of the body or from a simple cut or graze when that infection affects the function of the body’s organs. Sepsis is a life threatening condition that if caught early, can be managed effectively. A poll commissioned earlier this year by RCSI and the Rory Staunton Foundation for sepsis prevention, demonstrated that 72% of people surveyed were not aware of sepsis*, despite it being a common cause of death in Ireland.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, RCSI Senior Lecturer and Consultant Microbiologist, said: “Sepsis can kill in less than 12 hours and it must be diagnosed early because every hour delay increases the risk of death. Increasing awareness will reduce the number of preventable deaths associated with this condition.”

The symptoms of sepsis mimic those of the flu and as we approach the flu season it is critical that people know how to spot the signs and symptoms of sepsis and act appropriately. The signs and symptoms include; high temperature, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, pain, pale or mottled skin, and feeling generally very sick. According to research published by the National Sepsis Programme almost 15,000 cases of sepsis were diagnosed in Ireland in 2016, resulting in 2,735 deaths.

“Sepsis is a time-dependent medical emergency. For every one hour that antibiotics are delayed mortality goes up by 7.6% and that increases exponentially. We are encouraging people to learn to spot sepsis and save lives,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.

Commenting on World Sepsis Day, Prof. Steve Kerrigan, Associate Professor in Pharmacology at RCSI and inventor of InnovoSep, a potential new breakthrough therapy in the fight against sepsis, said: “Doctors and researchers continue their work to find ways of effectively treating sepsis, but public awareness is what will really save lives. It is critical that people learn to spot the signs and symptoms of sepsis so that they can get to the hospital and initiate treatment as soon as possible. This is important as sepsis destroys lives, families and communities and sepsis deaths are preventable if people can recognise the signs and symptoms.”

In addition to RCSI, buildings across the country including the Convention Centre Dublin, The Mansion House, the Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and Millmount Museum, Drogheda will go pink to mark World Sepsis Day and to encourage a nationwide conversation about sepsis.

Signs and symptoms of sepsis

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin


Further information on sepsis, its signs and symptoms can be found on the RCSI MyHealth app.

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2%) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations. It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide. RCSI is a signatory of the Athena SWAN Charter.

*The study ‘Public awareness of sepsis is still poor: we need to do more’, was published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine in July 2018 and can be read here.

World Sepsis Day is an initiative of the Global Sepsis Alliance.

Key facts

  • Approx. 30 million people suffer from sepsis annually
  • About 8-10 million of these people die
  • Around 20% of sepsis survivors live with cognitive and/or physical impairments
  • Mortality and impairments could be significantly reduced
  • The goals of World Sepsis Day
  • The aim to reduce the incidence of sepsis by 20% and the mortality rate by 10% by 2020. To save 800 000 lives each year.
  • Ensure effective treatment for those who do develop sepsis
  • Improve public and professional understanding and awareness of sepsis

Further information on InnovoSep, Prof. Kerrigan’s breakthrough sepsis treatment, can be found here.

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