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angle-left Sepsis is common, and can be deadly

Sepsis is common, and can be deadly

For Immediate Release:  2018-09-18

Contact:  Peter Kates (716) 857-4485

Western New York’s hospital admission rate for adults with sepsis is nearly twice the upstate New York average and is the highest rate among all upstate New York regions, according to a Univera Healthcare analysis of 2017 claims data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines sepsis as the body’s extreme response to an infection. Without timely treatment, it can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Rate of sepsis admissions per 1,000 adults (2017)

  • Western New York – 7.39
  • Finger Lakes Region – 5.65
  • Utica/Rome/North Country – 4.00
  • Central New York’s Southern Tier – 3.70
  • Central New York – 3.59
  • Upstate New York – 4.68

Sepsis occurs when an infection in a person triggers a serious inflammatory response throughout the body. The inflammation can rapidly spread and damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. Leading causes of sepsis include such common infections as cellulitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and diverticulitis.  

According to the Sepsis Alliance, there are 1.7 million cases of sepsis and 270,000 deaths each year in the United States. The sepsis death toll exceeds annual deaths in the U.S. from breast cancer, prostate cancer and AIDS combined.

“The regional differences we’ve identified may be due to increased awareness and tracking of sepsis,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer.

Western New York hospitals had nearly 9,000 adults ages 18 and older admitted for sepsis in 2017. In nearly two-thirds of the cases, the length of stay lasted from four to nine days, and more than a quarter of the cases required treatment in an intensive care unit.  

“It is important to identify and treat sepsis during its early stage,” said Vienne. “Early treatment with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids improves chances for survival.”

Last year in upstate New York, there were about 800 reported hospital admissions for sepsis that occurred within 30 days of a medical/surgical admission. Vienne advises monitoring people who are recovering from a medical procedure or surgery. The CDC lists any combination of the following as symptoms of sepsis:

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

“Act fast and get medical care immediately if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse,” said Vienne.  

A Univera Healthcare infographic about the warning signs of sepsis is available free to download at a PDF.

To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit

Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that is part of a family of companies financing and delivering health services for about 1.5 million upstate New Yorkers. Based in Buffalo, the health plan serves members across the eight counties that comprise Western New York.

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