You might hear some people calling sepsis “blood poisoning” or a “blood infection,” but this is not an accurate description. Sepsis is not an infection but it is your body’s reaction to one.
When you get an infection, your immune system starts to fight it by releasing chemicals. Unfortunately, and researchers don’t yet know why, as the immune system tries to fight the infection, it sometimes goes into overdrive. The chemicals meant to protect you end up triggering inflammation (swelling) throughout your body.
It is possible to get sepsis and not know you have an infection or the doctors might not be able to figure out what the infection was.
All types of infections can cause sepsis:
A bacterial infection is caused by bacteria, such as E. coli, or group A streptococcus. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, although some bacteria are becoming much more difficult to treat as they become antibiotic resistant. MRSA is a good example. People who die from MRSA, die from sepsis.
A viral infection is caused by a virus. Examples of viral infections are the flu (influenza), measles, and certain types of pneumonia. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics and many viruses have to just run their course. There are antiviral medications that are used for for some viral illnesses, however. Do not make the mistake, like a friend of mine, who decided to avoid the ER believing he would feel better in a couple of days. If you have 2 or more of the signs of sepsis (change in mental status, systolic pressure reading less than or equal to 100 mmHg, and respiratory rate higher than or equal to 22 breaths a minute); get medical help and, SAY SEPSIS! His death was preventable by him and his family. Look for the signs when your friends and loved ones get sick or have an infections!
Fungal infections are infections like athlete's foot or thrush. While these can seem just annoying for most people, they can become severe and cause sepsis. In 2012, there were several people in the United States who developed fungal meningitis from contaminated steroid injections into the spine and some went on to develop sepsis.
Parasitic infections are not as common in North America, but they do occur. These infections can trigger sepsis also.