Sepsis is the body's extreme response to an infection. Sepsis can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure and death without timely treatment. Sepsis is a medical emergency. Time matters.

Sepsis happens when an existing infection in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, gut or somewhere else spreads and triggers a chain reaction through your body. Sepsis is most commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and some types of Streptococcus.


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


Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. However, some people are at higher risk than others, including:

  • Adults 65 or older
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Children in the first year of life, especially newborns


  • Talk to your doctor.
  • Take good care of chronic conditions.
  • Get recommended vaccines.
  • Know the symptoms: confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, high heart rate, fever, shivering, or feeling very cold, extreme pain or discomfort, clammy or sweaty skin.
  • Practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands and keeping cuts clean until healed.
  • Act fast! Seek immediate medical care when an infection is not getting better or if it is getting worse.

Learn more about sepsis