Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an infection and arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multi-organ failure and death, especially if not recognised early and treated promptly.

Around the world, sepsis remains the main cause of hospital re-admissions and higher healthcare costs. The Global Sepsis Alliance states that sepsis is the underlying cause of death from most infectious diseases, including viruses such as COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates a multi-disciplinary approach to improve sepsis prevention and outcomes. Implementing preventive measures against infections such as good hygiene practices, ensuring access to vaccination programmes, and other good infection prevention and control practices are key steps in reducing the occurrence of sepsis. Early diagnosis and timely and appropriate clinical management of sepsis, including optimal anti-microbial use and fluid resuscitation can also help increase the likelihood of survival.

Dr Abdulla Al Ansari
Dr Abdulla Al Ansari

Dr Abdulla Al Ansari, Chief Medical Officer at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) explained that the onset of acute sepsis can pose a significant mortality risk or be the cause of significant long-term morbidity requiring ongoing treatment and support.

He said that sepsis is a medical emergency and one where timely intervention is essential to prevent septic shock and potential death or persistent health impairments. Global research has shown that up to 50% of sepsis survivors suffer from long-term physical and/or psychological effects of the condition.

From a healthcare perspective, it is essential to monitor patients carefully in the months after they have been discharged from the hospital to make sure the patient is safe and to avoid any risk of renewed infections and re-hospitalisation.

According to international statistics, between 47 to 50 million people contract sepsis every year, and at least 11 million people die from it (one in five deaths worldwide are associated with sepsis).

International clinical consensus highlights the need for health professionals to recognise early warning signs of sepsis and to carry out treatment in severe cases within one hour following diagnosis. Often referred to as the ‘Golden Hour’, health professionals during this period should carry out a series of treatment steps referred to as the ‘Sepsis Six’, which could maximise a patient’s chance of survival.

Dr Ahmed Labib
Dr Ahmed Labib

Dr Ahmed Labib, Senior Consultant at the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Hamad General Hospital highlighted the importance of greater awareness of the basic signs and symptoms. He notes that sepsis awareness is still relatively low among the general public and research indicates that around 80% of sepsis cases occur outside hospitals. Lack of knowledge and awareness among patients and their family members make sepsis the number one preventable cause of death worldwide.

There are six common signs that may indicate sepsis, according to Dr Labib:

  • Slurred speech (or patient exhibiting confusion) 
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain 
  • Fever 
  • Passing no urine all day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Skin looking mottled or generally discoloured

Many people with sepsis have expressed a feeling that they will die, which of course can be terrifying. More awareness that can support suspecting sepsis is a first major step towards early recognition and diagnosis and ultimately better patient recovery outcomes.

Dr Mohammad Janahi
Dr Mohammad Janahi

Dr Mohammad Janahi Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Sidra Medicine, explained that children and pregnant women are among the groups that are ‘high-risks’ or more susceptible to infections.

While anyone can develop sepsis, certain vulnerable population groups are more at risk, including people with chronic diseases, older people, pregnant or recently pregnant women, and children, particularly premature babies and infants whose immune system is not fully developed. Literature suggests that about 40% of sepsis cases around the world involve children under the age of five.

Parents should monitor their children carefully when they get sick and contact their doctor immediately if they find persistent symptoms of fever, pain, sweaty or blotchy skin, heightened fatigue, or if the child has trouble waking up or appears to be confused.

World Sepsis Day

Qatar’s National Sepsis Programme remains an important initiative to enhance healthcare professionals’ knowledge of sepsis detection and treatment, based on international best practice.

WORLD SEPSIS DAYSidra Medicine is hosting the 7th National Sepsis Symposium on World Sepsis Day on 13 September. The symposium is being organized by the Sidra Sepsis Program Steering Committee Lead, Dr Rasha Ashour, and supported by HMC sepsis experts.

Given the restrictions on regular educational events for healthcare professionals, the HMC Sepsis Steering Committee is recommending interested clinicians to attend the free World Sepsis Meeting which will take place from 12 to 16 September. Titled ‘Breaking Barriers around the World’, more than 150 speakers from 55 countries will speak on many aspects of sepsis, including COVID-19 and the link between COVID-19 and sepsis. Visit for more information. 

World Sepsis Day, held annually every 13 September, was established in 2012 as an initiative of the Global Health Alliance to raise awareness on the dangers of sepsis. The annual campaign, which is supported by Qatar’s public healthcare sector, advocates prevention education alongside promoting early detection and comprehensive evidence-based treatment measures.