Severe sepsis is a leading cause of death in the United States and the most common cause of death among critically ill patients in non-coronary intensive care units (ICU). Respiratory tract infections, particularly pneumonia, are the most common site of infection, and associated with the highest mortality. The type of organism causing severe sepsis is an important determinant of outcome, and gram-positive organisms as a cause of sepsis have increased in frequency over time and are now more common than gram-negative infections. Recent studies suggest that acute infections worsen pre-existing chronic diseases or result in new chronic diseases, leading to poor long-term outcomes in acute illness survivors. People of older age, male gender, black race, and preexisting chronic health conditions are particularly prone to develop severe sepsis; hence prevention strategies should be targeted at these vulnerable populations in future studies.