A STUDENT who survived meningitis twice has warned the public to spot the signs and symptoms of the killer disease.
Adam Clooney admits he is lucky to have survived and escaped the side effects of a condition which attacks up to 300 people each year.
The risk of meningitis and septicaemia heighten around Christmas and New Year, when people's immune systems are weakened from fighting common illnesses like colds and flu.
Mr Clooney, 24, got meningitis as a five-month-old baby, and at the age of nine, when he recalls slipping in and out in consciousness in intensive care.
"I remember asking my mother if I was going to die," he said.
"I was in intensive care for three days, my body aided by antibiotics, frantically fighting infection.
"I had meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection that can cause death in hours. Meningitis is often described as a race against time, and luckily my infection was discovered early."
There are between 200 to 300 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia - the blood poisoning form of the disease - every year in Ireland resulting in about two deaths every month. A further 56 people are left with severe after effects, including brain damage, deafness, blindness, limb loss, learning difficulties, memory issues and behavioural problems.
Mr Clooney, a scientist, said it is unbelievable that he beat the disease twice with no side effects.
As a baby, he had flu-like symptoms before a high-pitched squeal raised concerns for his mother, Shirley Clooney from Co Tipperary.
Nine years later he was again rushed to hospital after complaining of severe pain on the top of his head, a reaction to bright lights and becoming covered in a rash.
"I would always say if people are in any doubt about the symptoms to err on the side of caution and get checked out," added Mr Clooney, who is doing a masters in computational biology in Cork which aims to find better detection systems for quicker discovery of infections like meningitis.
For support or information call Meningitis Research Foundation Ireland free phone helpline on 1800 41 33 44.
Diane McConnell, foundation manager, said there is currently no vaccine available in the UK and Ireland against meningococcal B disease (MenB), although one vaccine is waiting for a licence from the European Medicines Agency.
"Both meningitis and septicaemia can be hard to recognise at first and symptoms can appear in any order, however shared symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell, just like many other mild illnesses," she added.
"They can leave a baby, child or adult fighting for their life within hours of the first symptoms.
"Don't be complacent during Christmas and New Year, knowing the symptoms and acting fast can save lives."