SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Sepsis is something you may not hear too much about but it’s considered the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S. Each year, the infection claims roughly a quarter million American lives. A dramatization showing a Geisinger-CMC nurse and tech aide tending to a patient with a gaping wound is a visual way to help talk about sepsis. The infection is an insidious killer that can claim a life in as little as 48 hours. “It can cause damage to a lot of organs,” said Geisinger CMC Director of Critical Care Srikanth Hosur, MD. Dr. Hosur says besides open wounds, sepsis can be triggered by other causes. “It could be just a flu. It could be infection that you can get as a pneumonia.” Sepsis targets areas of the body like the lungs, abdomen and urinary tract. Dr. Hosur says the elderly and very young are especially vulnerable because of weakened immune systems. Sepsis comes with four key symptoms. “Fever – a temperature – and basically on top of that you have a low blood pressure and if you do a blood test there’s an increased white count and an increased respiratory rate.” Dr. Hosur says the detection starts with what’s called a procalcitonin test that identifies certain biomarkers. “When the body is trying to fight off sepsis it releases a lot of chemicals to fight off sepsis.” Besides the loss of life it causes, sepsis is also considered the most expensive health care condition in the country with a price tag of $24 billion annually.” Dr. Hosur says aggressive detection and treatment are the only way to lessen the toll of sepsis. “It has to be done in the first six hours because even if you delay an antibiotic by an hour it can actually increase the chances of death.” A new test to detect sepsis is being developed by researchers at Texas Tech University. It would require a single drop of blood and show the presence of white blood cells indicating a sepsis infection.Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.