Patty Duke’s Death Announcement Is A Milestone For Sepsis Awareness

Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, star of “The Patty Duke Show” and the Broadway play and film “The Miracle Worker,” died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine on Tuesday.

Simple though it may seem, her death announcement is a major milestone for the sepsis awareness movement, said Thomas Heymann, executive director of the Sepsis Alliance. The more people are aware of this condition, Heymann said, the stronger their likelihood of saving their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.

“The fact that they said Patty Duke’s cause of death was sepsis is relatively new,” Heymann said. “It very often would have been left as a complication of surgery or an infection, but it’s not a complication — it’s sepsis.”

Sepsis, a reaction to infection that leads to systemic organ failure, kills more than 258,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the ninth-leading cause of disease-related deaths in the country. While most people can fully recover from sepsis, some survivors are left with permanent organ damage or missing limbs due to amputation.

Despite these alarming facts, less than half of Americans have even heard of sepsis, according to polls conducted by the Sepsis Alliance in partnership with official polling companies. In a 2015 online survey of 2,000 participants, only 47 percent of Americans were aware of sepsis. Meanwhile, 86 percent knew about Ebola and 76 percent knew about malaria — two diseases that are much rarer in the United States.

People who have sepsis experience organ dysfunction caused by their body’s overreaction to an initial infection, whether viral, bacterial or fungal. This overreaction is overwhelming for the body, and can lead to death. It’s most common in people with compromised immune systems, like the very young, —> Read More

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