The first step in diagnosing sepsis is to identify the components of the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, which includes high respiratory rate, elevated heart rate, abnormal body temperature and abnormal count of white blood cells, said Dr. Dean W. Meadows, assistant director of the adult intensive care unit at Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, in this interview. Sepsis can be confirmed when SIRS is due to an infection. Early aggressive treatment is needed to prevent the progression of sepsis to septic shock, which occurs when organ failure or low blood pressure continues even with treatment, Meadows said.

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