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Fatal Shock

Watch: What Is Sepsis?

What exactly is sepsis, and why is it so dangerous?

Sepsis happens as the body tries to fight off an infection. The body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to battle the invading germs — which can lead to a severe drop in blood pressure. That can damage vital organs and, in severe cases, cause them to shut down.

That’s known as septic shock, and it can be fatal.

Who is most vulnerable? And what are the signs of sepsis? KHN explains in this video.

KFF Health News' coverage of end-of-life and serious illness issues is supported in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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