12 Diseases That Can Kill You in Just 1 Day

As if cancer, stroke, and heart disease weren’t scary enough, there are plenty of other conditions out there that are potentially deadlier. Remember Aimee Copeland? She got a severe cut after falling into a rocky creek during a zip-line ride gone wrong in 2012. And that’s not the end of her story. She contracted a flesh-eating bacteria that resulted in several amputations and near death in just two days.

Copeland survived her incident, though many people in her situation do not. Here are the diseases that can kill you in 24 hours or less.

1. Necrotizing fasciitis

hand wound caused by an accident

This disease attacks your fat, skin, and tissue.  | iStock.com/wissanu01

If you don’t know this disease by its medical name, perhaps flesh-eating bacteria rings a bell. Necrotizing fasciitis is straight out of many of our nightmares, and it can be as devastating as its more common name suggests. WebMD explains it’s an infection in which the bacteria destroys fat, skin, and tissue covering the muscles.

Once contracted, you’ll notice the infected wound is red, swollen, and extremely painful. The infection can spread extremely quickly, causing shock, gangrene, organ failure, and eventually, death.

Next: This disease sometimes looks like nothing more than a bad cold. 

2. Meningococcal disease

Scientist analyzing dish with virus and bacteria cells

This disease only takes a day to kill you. | iStock.com/solarseven

This disease is brought on by a serious bacterial infection that’s easily spread from person to person if you’re in close contact, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases explains. Once meningococcal disease progresses, the protective lining around the brain and the spinal cord can swell, or the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause a deadly infection.

One in 10 people who contract the bacteria will die even when being treated, and two in 10 will walk away with brain damage, hearing loss, an amputated limb, or another disability.

Next: Seizures can be very deadly.

3. Epilepsy

man in the hospital responding to an emergency

Epilepsy can be life-threatening. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Many people live long, healthy lives with this condition, but the Epilepsy Foundation explains it’s associated with a phenomenon known as SUDEP, which stands for sudden, unexpected death in epilepsy. First, it’s important to understand what exactly epilepsy is. It’s not a bacterial or viral disease, the Foundation says, but a central nervous system disorder that causes seizures.

When SUDEP occurs, it’s out of the blue. Prior to their untimely death, around one-third of those with epilepsy do show signs of having a convulsive seizure, but many others show no signs of seizing at all.

Next: Some countries have a big problem with this disease.

4. Cholera

man drinking water

Cholera makes it difficult to stay hydrated. | iStock.com

Not many of us are dying from cholera in the U.S. anymore, but if you’re in other parts of the world, contracting this disease could mean death is imminent. The World Health Organization explains cholera is a diarrhea-causing disease that’s transmitted by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with a certain strain of bacteria. Many people don’t have symptoms other than uncomfortable stomach issues that aren’t life-threatening, but others can develop acute watery diarrhea. This then leads to severe dehydration and can kill within hours if left untreated.

Next: You can contract this disease without even knowing.

5. Chagas disease

woman clutching her chest while walking outside

Chagas disease can spell trouble for your heart. | iStock.com

You may have never heard of Chagas disease, but you can actually contract it without knowing. USA Today explains Chagas is transmitted by a parasite typically found in areas of Latin America. Since 1955, there have only been 23 cases of someone in the U.S. contracting Chagas, but that doesn’t mean you should totally let your guard down. These bugs have been found in the southern half of the States.

Acute Chagas doesn’t pose much of a threat — it’s the chronic phase you need to be wary of. Mayo Clinic explains chronic Chagas can cause irregular heart beat, congestive heart failure, or sudden cardiac arrest.

Next: Yes, you can still die from this disease after all these years.

6. Bubonic plague

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images

We’ve all heard about the dreaded bubonic plague killing millions during the Middle Ages, but black death is still a disease you can contract to this day. The CDC explains you primarily get the plague when you’re bitten by an infected flea that’s carrying the bacteria.

If you contract the plague, you’ll likely see symptoms between two and six days later. Early symptoms include fever, headache, and chills, as well as swollen and tender lymph nodes. Once the bacteria invades the bloodstream, it can cause shock, tissue death, or a severe lung infection.

Next: This virus isn’t always deadly, but in children, it can be.

7. Enterovirus D68

young children eating at McDonald's

Enterovirus D68 can be deadly to children. | Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

MedicineNet.com explains enteroviruses enter the body through the intestinal tract and cause many different diseases. You’re unlikely to die from EV-D68 alone, but complications from other illnesses can lead to a quick death, particularly in young children.

In 2014, CNN reported on the case of 10-year-old Emily Otrando who died from a bacterial infection in the blood within 24 hours of contracting it. Whether or not the virus contributed to her death is unclear, as she had a staff infection as well, but doctors suspect the combination of the two could have caused this tragedy.

Next: This illness kills millions every year.

8. Dengue fever

Mosquito sucking blood on human skin

Protect yourself from mosquitos when possible. | iStock.com/auimeesri

The CDC explains dengue fever is caused by the bite of a mosquito that has been infected with the virus. It’s the leading cause of illness and death in the tropics — nearly 400 million people are infected each year, and it’s been a worldwide concern since the 1950s.

When you contract the dengue virus, you’ll have a severe fever that lasts between two and seven days. The fever then begins to subside, which is when the disease gets really dangerous. When you start to return to your normal temperature, you have between 24 and 48 hours to get help before circulatory system failure, shock, and death.

Next: An unhealthy heart can kill you very quickly.

9. Congenital heart disease

Doctor drawing ecg heartbeat chart

Being born with this disease can cause serious trouble. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

This is perhaps the most devastating disease on this list because it’s present at birth and can very quickly result in infant death. MedlinePlus explains congenital heart disease is the most common type of birth defect, causing more deaths within the first year of life than any other defect.

Ebstein anomaly, one type of this disease, occurs when the valve that separates the right ventricle and the right atrium in the heart is abnormal. This off positioning can then cause blood to flow the wrong way, resulting in fluid buildup and in some cases, heart failure. Newborns can also develop holes in the heart or not fully develop certain areas of the heart at all.

Next: This condition affects nearly a million Americans yearly. 

10. Stroke

Middle-aged businessman suffering chest pains

You can have a stroke with minimal warning ahead of time. | iStock.com/mheim3011

Better known as a “brain attack,” the National Stroke Association reminds us this scary condition can occur without any prior signs or symptoms. Essentially, blood flow is cut off to the brain, causing brain cells to die at a rapid pace.

Many people who have a stroke are left permanently paralyzed or disabled, but if you have a brain aneurysm or a weakened blood vessel leak, then this is when it turns deadly. Hemorrhagic strokes aren’t as common as other types, but they often result in death.

Next: You don’t want to get this staph infection. 

11. MRSA

an image of MRSA on the inside of the body

MRSA can be seriously life-threatening. | iStock.com/iLexx

You probably remember when the MRSA scare was rampant around hospitals, gyms, and public schools — and there’s good reason to be fearful. Mayo Clinic explains this infection is caused by staph bacteria that’s resistant to many antibiotics, making it difficult to treat. It can be spread via skin to skin contact, too, making ordinarily healthy people susceptible to contracting the disease.

Typically, MRSA starts as a swollen red bump, and it can be surgically drained without issue. But the infection has the potential to quickly spread to your bloodstream, which can cause death.

Next: This virus is typically fatal if you contract it. 

12. Ebola

A woman sitting by a mural showing Liberia's national flag

Ebola is still a major threat in many parts of the world. | Dominique Faget/Getty Images

Known as one of the world’s deadliest diseases, it’s no wonder the thought of Ebola has caused widespread panic. Thankfully, there is now a vaccine for those in the most affected areas — but if you do contract it, it’s still highly infectious and will likely kill you.

The good news is you won’t die the day you get Ebola. But if you do contract it and the extreme bleeding phase has begun, The Huffington Post notes you can expect extremely limited time before you go into shock and pass away. Your organs will fail from the internal bleeding as well.

Next: Ladies, you were warned about this one. 

Honorable mention: Toxic shock syndrome

Woman's hand holding a clean cotton tampon in a pink background

Woman’s hand holding a clean cotton tampon | iStock.com/emapoket

Toxic shock syndrome scared every prepubescent lady in health class, but there’s good news — it’s not as common as you were told. Still, while it won’t take you out in just one day, it has the potential to kill very quickly if you contract it.

Daily Mail Online takes the case of 14-year-old Natasha Scott-Falber as an example. She used tampons just once before falling ill, and five days later, she died from TSS. Bupa health care company says it’s not exactly understood how tampons can cause this infection, but the absorbency is thought to be a factor.

Next: This one’s rare, but if you get it, there’s no stopping its progression.

Honorable mention: Mad cow disease

Dairy Cow Grazing at Sunset

If the brain of an infected cow gets into your food, you have a chance of getting this. | iStock.com/arophotos

It’s scary to imagine humans getting mad cow. In actuality it’s not exactly mad cow, but it’s something very similar known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, WebMD reports. You can only contract this condition if you consume the brain or spinal cord of infected cattle, so for this reason, it’s pretty rare. With that said, if you do get it, your death is pretty much guaranteed as your symptoms worsen. You won’t die the same day it enters your system, but you will die eventually (usually about a year later).

Next: These diseases might kill you in a day, but you’re still most likely to die this way. 

As for the leading cause of death in Americans, heart disease still wins

human heart illustration

Make sure you take care of your ticker. | iStock.com/Nerthuz

The diseases on this list are terrifying, there’s no doubt about it. But what you really have to fear is heart disease. The CDC warns one out of every four deaths in the U.S. is from heart issues, so it’s important to know if you’re at a high risk. If you’re having any chest pain or discomfort in the arms, back, or jaw, these are all signs something could be up. And as you know already, your diet and physical activity level play a serious role. Know what you can do to lower your risk to ensure your heart stays healthy for years to come.

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