IT felt like a bout of food poisoning but, within 12 hours, Eliza Ault-Connell went from being a reasonably healthy 16-year-old to fighting for her life.
Meningococcal disease was the reason for her sudden descent in 1997.
“I had a couple of panadol and went to bed, I woke up two hours later and my rash was starting to turn black,” Mrs Ault-Connell said.
“My parents hadn't heard much about it, they just knew it was deadly.”
Mrs Ault-Connell was in a coma when her legs were amputated in a life-saving procedure.
She survived the ordeal and went on to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games, Olympics and Paralympics as a wheelchair racer.
Now Mrs Ault-Connell is married with three children and has lived in Albury for seven years.
Her mission, as the director of Meningococcal Australia, is to raise awareness of the disease.
It can be contracted at any age via coughing, sneezing or kissing. Symptoms include headache, fever, drowsiness, neck pain, change in skin colour and shivering.
Mrs Ault-Connell said people should research what they are vaccinated against.
“Prior to the meningococcal C vaccine being added to the immunisation schedule, that strain made up 90 per cent of cases,” she said.
“Now we only see a handful of meningococcal C cases.
“Meningococcal B has become the most common strain and we have a vaccine for it, but only on the private market.”
Mrs Ault-Connel said she'd spoken with Health Minister Sussan Ley about having the B strain vaccine added to the National immunisation Program.
She said she wanted to break down the misconception that every vaccinated child was fully protected.
She was also pushing for the health department to make cases known.
“If we can get onto those communities which have had a case, let them know signs and symptoms and that a vaccine is available, that's going to save lives,” she said.
“At the end of the day, minutes literally matter.”
There was one case of meningococcal in 2011 and five in 2015 in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.
Victoria went from 26 cases in 2013 to 33 cases in 2014 and 56 last year.
The independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee considered three applications from Novartis to list its meningococcal B vaccine on the National Immunisation Program
“On each occasion, the application was rejected on the basis of clinical uncertainty and cost effectiveness,” a Department of Health spokesperson said.
For more information, visit meningococcal.org.au.