US adults underestimate sepsis risk, survey finds

Sixty-five percent of Americans are aware of sepsis, but 76 percent incorrectly believe more people die annually from opioid overdoses than from sepsis, according to the Sepsis Alliance's annual Sepsis Awareness Survey for 2019.

 Sepsis affects 1.7 million people and kills about 270,000 per year in the U.S., a number higher than the annual death toll for opioid overdoses, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Still, U.S. adults consistently underestimate the risks of sepsis, according to the survey, and sepsis awareness falls behind awareness of other conditions.

Radius Global Market Research conducted the survey among over 2,000 U.S. adults from June to July 2019, on the Sepsis Alliance's behalf. They found 22 percent of adults had never heard of sepsis, compared to just 1 percent for diabetes and stroke. Over a third of adults say they do not know the symptoms of sepsis, whereas over half can identify the three symptoms of stroke.

Sepsis awareness also differs by race and income. Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to have heard of sepsis than blacks or Hispanics. People are also more likely to know the term when they have annual incomes of $75,000 or higher.

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