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Sepsis deaths highest among seniors and increase with age

In 2019, more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. involved sepsis, an extreme and potentially life-threatening complication of some infections.

Three-fourths of those deaths occurring among seniors.

Death certificates record sepsis as either the immediate or intermediate cause of death. But in 2019, nearly one-fifth of all such deaths among seniors listed sepsis as the underlying cause.

New data from the National Vital Statistics System finds seniors accounted for three-fourths of sepsis-related deaths, which trended upward by age.

Those deaths were five times higher among adults aged 85 and over than adults ages 65 to 74.

Males were harder hit than females, and death rates were worse in rural areas.

Sepsis-related deaths were highest among Black adults, followed by Asian, Hispanic and white adults.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.