A killer we can de­feat with just a few words

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page -

NEXT month is Breast Can­cer Aware­ness month. In fact, it is the 25th an­niver­sary of the pink rib­bon, that po­tent lit­tle sym­bol which pops up on coats and jack­ets in Oc­to­ber.

The power of the pink sym­bol is ex­traor­di­nary: from woolly pink hats in Asda to posh mois­turis­ers from Elemis, char­ity walks to glitzy fash­ion shows, the char­ity Breast Can­cer Care – through dogged cam­paign­ing and fundrais­ing – has las­soed it­self to the pub­lic con­scious­ness.

Other ill­nesses, it must be said, are not so lucky. I’m ashamed to say that un­til a friend of a friend died af­ter con­tract­ing sep­sis, I had never even heard of the con­di­tion. And yet it is a ter­ri­fy­ing and silent killer, aris­ing when the body’s re­sponse to an in­fec­tion dam­ages its own tis­sues and or­gans.

It can, and fre­quently does, lead to shock, mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure and death, par­tic­u­larly if it is not recog­nised early. Sep­sis af­fects around 20,000 Scots each year, killing an es­ti­mated 4,000 of them.

In com­par­i­son, there are around 4,600 new cases of breast can­cer each year, and height­ened cam­paign­ing, in­creased breast screen­ing and early di­ag­no­sis mean that sur­vival rates have never been higher. In short: aware­ness works.

So why, then, has the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment dis­missed calls for a na­tion­wide aware­ness cam­paign? And why on earth has Health Sec­re­tary Shona Ro­bi­son re­jected a call from the Scot­tish par­lia­ment’s pub­lic pe­ti­tions com­mit­tee to warn more of us about an ill­ness that claims so many lives?

This week, on World Sep­sis Day (un­like breast can­cer, sep­sis only mer­its one day), the Scot­tish Daily Mail launched its End the Sep­sis Scan­dal, a cam­paign to raise aware­ness. Six health boards across Scot­land had backed calls for a pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion drive, say­ing im­proved knowl­edge about symp­toms would slash the num­ber fall­ing se­ri­ously ill.

Health pro­fes­sion­als are des­per­ate for more of us to un­der­stand what sep­sis is. ‘We can­not be com­pla­cent about sep­sis and are con­stantly striv­ing to de­velop sys­tems which give the best chance of avoid­ing tragedies that oc­cur when sep­sis is un­recog­nised,’ said NHS High­land in its sub­mis­sion to the Scot­tish par­lia­ment.

Be­cause the truth is, un­like breast can­cer, sep­sis is a con­di­tion about which many of us are ig­no­rant.

Writ­ing this week in the Mail, Lord Ashcroft re­vealed that un­til he spent 19 days in in­ten­sive care af­ter sep­sis ‘came within a whisker’ of claim­ing his life, he too had been bliss­fully un­aware of the symp­toms and just how many lives sep­sis takes.

Now he works with the UK Sep­sis Trust, to which he has do­nated money, in the hope of rais­ing aware­ness.

Here then, are the symp­toms of sep­sis, which usu­ally starts as a mi­nor bac­te­rial, fun­gal or vi­ral in­fec­tion: high or low body tem­per­a­ture, chills and shiv­er­ing, fast breath­ing or a fast heart­beat, pro­duc­ing less urine, breath­less­ness, mot­tled clammy skin, dizzi­ness, di­ar­rhoea, nau­sea and vom­it­ing.

It might not be a pretty pink rib­bon, but shar­ing this in­for­ma­tion could just save lives. What a pity the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment doesn’t agree.

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