Great Plains Health set to launch alert protocol for sepsis

North Platte Mayor Dwight Livingston prepares to read a proclamation designating September as Sepsis Awareness Month in North Platte alongside Great Plains Health Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. James Smith on Wednesday at GPH.

Great Plains Health plans to launch a new sepsis alert protocol on Oct. 1 as part of its participation in Sepsis Awareness Month in September.

Dr. James Smith, emergency department medical director, said sepsis is a serious concern.

He said it is more than just having pneumonia or kidney infection or a skin infection.

“Your body develops this severe inflammatory response to the infection and it’s this severe inflammation that your body develops that leads to organ failure,” Smith said. “A bunch of different inflammatory chemicals are produced and these chemicals are damaging to the blood vessels, damages the organs.”

Then what follows is heart failure, kidney failure, lung failure and more, Smith said. People who are 65 and older, younger than a year old, have weakened immune systems or have chronic conditions like cancer or diabetes are at higher risk of developing sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Platte Mayor Dwight Livingston offered a proclamation Wednesday.

“Whereas the Sepsis Alliance has described the month of September as sepsis awareness month as a way to improve recognition of the symptoms of sepsis in communities and bring attention to this treatable condition ...,” Livingston read from the proclamation.

According to the Sepsis Alliance, sepsis takes a life every two minutes in the United States and affects 1.7 million adults.

“We know sepsis is very, very common and if you think about it, some of the disease processes spoken of — HIV, aids, breast cancer, opioids, etc., those disease processes get a lot of public awareness, which is a fabulous thing,” Smith said. “But we really don’t hear much relative to sepsis.”

The disease is difficult to diagnose since it happens quickly and can be confused with other conditions, according to the CDC, making awareness a key component of preventing sepsis deaths.

“It’s unfortunate because we know with public awareness brings education and we know that education brings early detection, which improves survival rates and that’s what this is all about what we’re hoping to do here today,” Smith said.

Smith said last year the American Infectious Disease Society came out with another definition, which is the third one.

“So it’s kind of a moving target,” Smith said. “In a nutshell, sepsis isn’t just an infection.”

Sepsis can be deadly, so time is of the essence.

“We know that for every hour that we delay in the treatment of somebody who is septic, the mortality rate goes up by 4%,” Smith said. “If you think about it, 4% is not very much, but if I’m sick and I’m at home and I’ve developed sepsis and I lay there for one day — 24 hours — that’s a 100% mortality rate.”

The new protocol in an active approach by GPH, includes a “soft alert that enables emergency responders to alert the emergency department of a suspected sepsis patient before their arrival.”

“This early alert will drastically reduce the time to treatment, which often means the difference between life and death,” Smith said.

The protocol will begin Oct. 1 at GPH as a collaborative effort with local EMS teams.

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