Microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can infect a newborn in the first 28 days of life from either a dirty birthing area or a previous bacterial infection that the mother may have had. This serious infection is called Sepsis Neonatorum. Sepsis can spread throughout an infant’s entire body and is accountable for over 30% of deaths from babies that are infected from birth. Although sepsis occurs in less than 1% of babies born it is still an infection that can turn to be fatal if not treated immediately. Babies that are born premature or less than 5 ½ pounds are five times more likely of being exposed to sepsis as well as complications during birth such as infection, bleeding, and premature rupture of the membranes and other bacteria passed through the mothers genital tract can lead to sepsis.
Symptoms such as breathing apnea, jitteriness, seizures, a swollen abdomen, and excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea that are identified within the first 6 to 72 hours of life is called early onset neonatal sepsis. These same symptoms that are identified four or more days after birth is called late onset neonatal sepsis. It is important to identify these symptoms quickly because the bacteria can spread through the blood to the brain, lungs, bones, and joints in a matter of hours.
When symptoms do begin to show samples of the infants blood and urine are taken but only in small quantities due to the size of the child. These samples are then examined and a diagnosis is given for treatment. However, the examination can easily miss signs of sepsis and infected skin samples and stomach fluids are usually taken as extra precaution. The child is always separated from other infants and incubated or put into a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) until symptoms begin to decline.
Basic antibiotics are given upon the first sign that an infant is infected with sepsis and specific antibiotics are given once the infection has been properly identified. Based on the child’s health, weight, age and tolerance to medications will determine what kind of antibiotics a doctor will administer and what kind.
“Sepsis” Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
“Neonatal Problems: Sepsis Neonatorum” Mother and Child Glossary