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Blood poisoning is the common term used to describe a medical condition known as sepsis. Sepsis is a bacterial infection of the blood. It can progress to septic shock and become fatal without immediate treatment. Although the actual septic condition is not contagious, you can be infected with the bacterial agents that cause sepsis. You can develop sepsis through the spread of pre-existing bacterial infections, by using contaminated needles, and by unprotected handling of body fluids. Bacterial agents that cause sepsis can also be passed from mother to newborn during delivery.
Some common symptoms of sepsis include abnormal body temperature, irregular breathing, elevated heart rate, severe nausea, and an abnormal white blood cell count. Symptoms vary according to source of infection. In severe cases, symptoms can include seizure, body paralysis or pain, and mental disorientation.
Pre-existing infections such as pnuemonia, urinary tract infections, cellulitis, and meningitis can spread and develop into sepsis. Infection from post-surgical wounds can also spread and develop into sepsis. Individuals with weak immune system from pre-existing medical conditions, medication, recovering from surgery, or age are considered high-risk for developing sepsis.
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Use of contaminated needles or any type of penetrating object or tool with others can provide opportunity for direct infection into the blood stream, which can progress into a septic infection.
Unprotected contact with body fluids such as blood, faeces, saliva,and pus from wounds or blisters creates potential for bacterial infection, which can develop into sepsis.The potential for bacterial infection increases when bodily fluids come in contact with areas of open cuts, bruises, or the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes).
Mother to Newborn
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Bacterial agents can be passed from mother to newborn during delivery and can develop into symptoms of sepsis within the first 90 days of life. A mother who develops sepsis, from natural or C-section delivery, can pass infectious agents to their newborn through breast milk.
Treatment / Prevention
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Treatment for sepsis includes aggressive intravenous antibiotics to kill the infection. A more severe case may require ventilation for respiratory failure, vasopressor treatment to stabilise blood pressure, painkillers, and medications to control blood sugar and immune response. Invasive surgical procedures may also be required to drain or remove the source of infection.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Umberto Salvagnin