How deadly signs of meningitis can mimic flu symptoms
People suspected of contracting the potentially deadly meningitis bug - which can mimic the flu - must seek immediate medical attention despite hospital overcrowding, a support group has warned.
The contagious disease that infects the brain peaks in winter months. The bacterial form of the disease can lead to fatal septicaemia or blood poisoning and must always be regarded as a medical emergency.
But because the disease can mimic flu symptoms - especially the milder viral version of the disease - people may put off going to the hospital or their GP, which can be a fatal mistake, according to a spokeswoman for ACT for Meningitis (AFM).
Despite more than 500 people awaiting treatment on trolleys at hospital wards and emergency departments yesterday, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), a delay of even a couple of hours could make the difference between life and death, she said.
However, unlike the flu, the symptoms of meningitis typically come on very quickly, within a matter of hours.
"I survived it myself and it's a sickness you've never felt before," the spokeswoman said.
Symptoms can include vomiting, fever, headache, a stiff neck, aversion to bright lights, severe muscle pain and confusion, according to AFM.
Children under five are the highest-risk group, followed by teenagers and young adults up to the age of 24. See actformeningitis.ie for more information on symptoms.