House passes Fleming plan to battle sepsis in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS – Hospitals across Indiana would be better-equipped to combat the life-threatening illness called sepsis, thanks to legislation co-authored by State Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville) that has been approved in the Indiana House.

House Bill 1275 would provide an easier means for hospitals to obtain an early diagnosis of sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock, and have procedures in place to treat the illnesses. Sepsis is considered the leading cause of death in hospitals.

Sepsis is an illness that results from the body’s response to an infection. It often occurs when an immune system goes into overdrive to fight the infection, resulting in damage to the bloodstream and other tissues, causing organ failure and death. Symptoms include a high heart rate, fever, shortness of breath, and extreme pain.

“Sepsis does not discriminate,” Fleming said. “It affects young and old alike. Most people are aware that a fever and a temperature of 104 or 105 is abnormal, but not that a temperature of 96 or 97 is an ominous sign of sepsis.

“I am particularly concerned about the impact of sepsis on child-bearing women,” she continued. “A study determined that sepsis was the fifth greatest cause of maternal deaths in California. It also was determined to have a good-to-strong chance of being preventable. A thorough work-up and aggressive antibiotic therapy might have reduced these deaths.

“Through the protocols contained in House Bill 1275, we can create a greater awareness of how sepsis can occur,” Fleming said. “We can provide a means through which doctors and nurses can detect the early warning signs of the illness, and quickly formulate a treatment plan.”

These practices would be developed by a Sepsis Treatment Protocol Task Force created under House Bill 1275. The group’s recommendations would then be implemented by the Indiana State Department of Health, which would become part of the new protocol training.

“We have lost too many lives because sepsis was not caught and treated in time,” Fleming said. “Through this bill, we could provide the right tools to help our health care professionals.”

House Bill 1275 now moves to the Indiana Senate for consideration.

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