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A Canadian woman has suddenly died after unknowingly contracting a bacterial infection that presented as the flu.
Jessica Martin was admitted to Hamilton General Hospital last week after she began experiencing severe flu-like symptoms. The 35-year-old Hamilton, Ont. resident was given antibiotics and intravenous fluids, but her health quickly deteriorated. She died hours later.
According to Martin’s sister, it wasn’t until after an autopsy that the coroner revealed she had contracted Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) disease, a bacterial infection that has similar symptoms to the flu.
Martin was a graduate of McMaster University and was currently working at a trendy downtown restaurant.
“We’ve been in such shock, it’s hard to really question things,” Lisa Martin told reporters. “We’re just trying to get through each moment.”
What is Haemophilus influenzae disease?
According to the Health Canada, there are several types of Hi diseases that range in severity. Bacteria is passed from person to person through the airways and can cause mild infection in the nose and throat. Should bacteria enter into the bloodstream or spinal cord, severe and potentially fatal infections such as meningitis can occur.
Strands of Hi disease bacteria can impact people in different ways. Mild strains can cause a contained infection to the ear, nose and throat such as ear infections, sinus infection and pneumonia.
In more severe cases, like H.influenzae tybe b (Hib), infection can travel throughout the body and cause symptoms that present like the flu, but can escalate and prove fatal within hours.
Health Canada advises going to the nearest healthcare provider if you experience the sudden onset of fever, drowsiness, an intense headache, vomiting, fussiness (in children) and a stiff neck and back. These could be signs of a dangerous infection such as meningitis that require immediate medical attention.
Infections caused by Hi disease are preventable with vaccines that are typically administered in infancy.