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Media release: Survey by Dalhousie University researchers finds almost 40 per cent of Canadians unaware of sepsis, suggesting public awareness campaign needed on the life‑threatening illness

Posted by Communications and Marketing on November 7, 2022 in News

Almost 40 per cent of Canadians do not know what sepsis is, how  life-threatening the illness is and what can be done to help prevent it, according to a national survey led by researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of Calgary.

The study, in which 3,200 adults were surveyed online, found that 61 per cent of respondents had heard of sepsis, but general knowledge of the symptoms, risk factors and prevention measures was low at roughly 32 per cent overall.  Common signs of sepsis, like mental confusion and fast breathing, were recognized by less than one-fifth.

Most adults surveyed did not associate viral infections, like COVID-19 and influenza, as causes of sepsis. Only 25 per cent of respondents recognized vaccination as a preventive strategy to lower the risk of sepsis.

Until now, there had been no comprehensive evaluation of adult Canadians' knowledge of sepsis, a complication of the body’s response to infection which can cause life-altering physical and psychological effects. It is a condition, however, that carries substantial financial, medical and psychological costs to both the individual and the health-care system.

"Our study provides a valuable baseline measure of what Canadians seem to know and not know about sepsis," says study co-lead Dr. Jeanna Parsons Leigh, an assistant professor and Killam Memorial Research Chair at Dalhousie University.

"Our findings will help us create Canadian-focused resources for targeted campaigns promoting sepsis awareness. Our end goal is to engage, educate and empower Canadians to make informed decisions for their own health."

Dr. Parsons Leigh led the study with Dr. Kirsten Fiest, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, as part of their ongoing work conducted with Sepsis Canada, a multidisciplinary network of clinicians, researchers and patient partners.

Dr. Parsons Leigh is available to discuss the results and the need for public educational initiatives on infection prevention, since most sepsis cases originate in the community.


Media contact:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491



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