What Is Sepsis? Bill Clinton Hospitalized With Infection

Former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized earlier this week because of a "non-COVID-related infection," according to a spokesman. He has reportedly been diagnosed with a condition known as sepsis.

The spokesperson, Angel Ureña, said on Thursday that Clinton was admitted to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center (UCIMC) on Tuesday to receive treatment.

"He is on the mend, in good spirits and is incredibly thankful to the doctors, nurses, and staff providing him with excellent care," Ureña said in a statement.

On Friday, Dr. Alpesh Amin, chair of medicine at UCIMC, and Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton's personal primary physician, released a joint statement saying Clinton had been admitted to the ICU for "close monitoring" and the administration of antibiotics and fluids.

Doctors said the former president's condition appeared to improving and that he could be released from hospital soon.

"After two days of treatment, his white blood cell count is trending down and he is responding to antibiotics well," the joint statement said. "The California-based medical team has been in consistent communication with the President's New York-based medical team, including his cardiologist. We hope to have him go home soon."

Media outlets such as ABC News and CNN reported that Clinton had suffered a urinary tract infection that then developed into a condition known as sepsis.

What Is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body produces an immune response to an infection that damages its own tissues, causing organs to function poorly and abnormally.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) almost any infection, including COVID, can lead to sepsis.

But the infections that most often lead to sepsis begin in the lungs, urinary tract, skin, or gastrointestinal tract. Without timely treatment, sepsis can lead to organ failure and in severe cases, death.

CDC figures show at least 1.7 million adults develop sepsis in the United States over the course of a typical year. About 270,000 Americans die annually as a result of the condition.

Scientists are still trying to understand what exactly happens during sepsis, and why the body can sometimes react in this harmful way.

According to the Sepsis Alliance, we know that the condition can cause leakage from the blood vessel linings, low blood pressure with reduced blood flow to vital organs, and small clots throughout the body that prevent nutrients from reaching vital organs.

Typical Symptoms

Sepsis can lead to a variety of symptoms depending on the parts of the body affected, but the signs can include a high heart rate or low blood pressure; fever, shivering or feeling very cold; confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath; extreme pain or discomfort; and clammy or sweaty skin.

In some cases, sepsis can progress to septic shock, which is characterized by a severe drop in blood pressure. The risk of death from sepsis increases when the condition progresses to septic shock.

While most people recover from mild sepsis, septic shock has a mortality rate of around 40 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Some groups are at a higher risk from sepsis, including adults aged 65 or older, people with weakened immune systems, individuals with chronic medical conditions, people who have recently had a severe illness or been in hospital, sepsis survivors, and children younger than one.

Former President Bill Clinton
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the funeral service of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on July 30, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Clinton was hospitalized on Tuesday due to a non-COVID-related infection. Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images