PEOPLE are being urged to spot the signs of life-threatening sepsis.

Mark Ainsworth-Smith, a consultant pre-hospital care practitioner at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), said anyone can develop the condition.

Sepsis, sometimes called septicaemia or blood poisoning, occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection, including viral infections such as Covid-19.

Those at higher risk are people aged over 75 or young children under a year old, in addition to patients with compromised immune systems, such as those who have undergone recent chemotherapy.

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Mr Ainsworth-Smith said: “Most of us who develop an infection will be fine, we will recover and go completely back to normal, but certain people will suffer a dysregulated response in the body which means they can become very unwell very quickly.

“This is of concern as although there are higher risk groups, sepsis can affect anyone and it can sometimes be hard to spot, so it is really important people familiarise themselves with the signs and take action when they need to.

“The pandemic has been a complicating factor because some patients have attributed their symptoms to Covid-19 and some have been scared to attend hospitals and GP surgeries to be assessed in fear that they are going to catch Covid-19.

“This has led some patients to delay seeking medical attention.”

Mr Ainsworth-Smith said it was important for anyone who develops a fever and high temperature, or shivering, to take it seriously and seek medical advice.

Symptoms can initially feel like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection, but can worsen very quickly.

There are about 245,000 cases of sepsis in the UK every year, causing at least 48,000 deaths and around 40 per cent of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life-changing after effects.

However, if recognised and diagnosed early, it can be treated effectively with antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

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“Symptoms such as a high fever or feeling really unwell or shivering badly are absolutely things that should be addressed and we would recommend people contact their GP, phone 111 or use 111 online if they are experiencing these symptoms and want to get a professional opinion,” said Mr Ainsworth-Smith.

“However, if they truly think they've got sepsis, particularly if they are a person in a high risk group, that is an emergency and it's perfectly appropriate to phone 999 in those circumstances where our expert staff will ensure they get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”

SCAS was the first ambulance service to adopt the second version of the National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS2) system in the UK, to identify a person’s need for hospital treatment.

“We have done a lot of education with our staff to help them to recognise patients with sepsis,” said Mr Ainsworth-Smith.

“When sepsis is diagnosed, our staff are well trained to start initial treatment before transporting seriously unwell patients rapidly to hospital.

“Our crews will alert the hospital so that sepsis specialists are ready and waiting when they arrive.”