The United Nations agency passed a resolution in Geneva launching a global public awareness campaign on the life-threatening condition.
The resolution, which came about after months of campaigning by the UK Sepsis Trust, urges governments to do far more to tackle the ‘silent killer’.
Sepsis develops when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs.
It is the leading cause of avoidable death in the UK but is difficult to diagnose until it has spread throughout the body.
As part of the WHO package the organisation agreed to put £3.5million into a campaign to raise awareness of sepsis around the world, including persuading its 194 member countries to always treat sepsis as an emergency.
It will also fund a joint task force, to be set up in collaboration with the Global Sepsis Alliance, to help every country to publish an action plan on tackling sepsis.
The resolution also urges governments to teach their people about the symptoms of sepsis, improve effective use of antibiotics and extend use of vaccines against the diseases that trigger sepsis.
Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, helped draft the resolution. He said Britain is leading the way on sepsis – and the new resolution urges other countries to follow the UK’s lead.
Dr Daniels said: ‘The adoption of this sepsis resolution is a crucial step in the right direction for countries all over the world who urgently require focus and resources to reclaim the millions of lives lost unnecessarily to sepsis each year.’
Sepsis affects around 260,000 people a year in the UK, killing at least 44,000. Worldwide, it kills six million every year.
If it is caught early, antibiotics can control the infection. If not, there is little doctors can do. Yet awareness of the condition is poor, meaning it is often mistaken for milder conditions.
The Daily Mail’s End the Sepsis Scandal campaign was triggered in January 2016 by revelations over the death in 2014 of 12-month-old William Mead after a catalogue of errors, misdiagnoses and missed opportunities by doctors and NHS helpline staff.
Last December, in a significant victory for the campaign, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a major public awareness drive on sepsis.
Dr Daniels said improved awareness could save 14,000 lives a year in Britain.
Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, praised the efforts of the UK and other countries in tackling the disease.
Source: Daily Mail