12 Medical Conditions That Can Kill You in 24 Hours or Less

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Severe dengue

Dengue is another mosquito-borne infection that causes flu-like symptoms, and half the world’s population is at risk, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, and joint pain. However, the illness can develop into a complication called “severe dengue,” which can be marked by severe abdominal pain and uncontrollable vomiting, which can turn deadly. A patient needs to seek help within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of these symptoms. “Unlike malaria, there is no medicine to prevent dengue. All you can do is use liberal amounts of mosquito repellent,” says Dr. Citronberg.

Sudden cardiac arrest

The condition is responsible for killing 325,000 adults in the United States every year—most often in adults in their 30s and 40s, and men are at increased risk, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Unlike a heart attack, sudden cardiac death is often caused by an arrhythmia (where the heart beats abnormally). “Death will occur within minutes, if left untreated,” they write on their website. Though it often occurs without warning.

Pneumonic plague

Transmitted by the bite of an infected flea or through contact with another infected person, this “lung-based” plague, which most commonly occurs in Africa, can be fatal in 18 to 24 hours if not quickly treated with antibiotics, per WHO.


Meningococcal bacteria can cause a rare disease called meningococcemia. “This bacteria can circulate in the bloodstream and cause very rapid organ failure and death. I’ve seen patients come to the ER not feeling well and die eight hours later. It very aggressively destroys tissues, causes blood vessels to clot and limbs to die quickly,” says Dr. Citronberg. “This is the single-most feared infection,” he says. Know that if you are without a spleen—an organ that helps protect your body from certain types of bacteria—you may be more at risk. The best treatment is actually prevention with vaccination, he says.


Ingesting food or water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria can lead to watery diarrhea and severe dehydration. According to WHO, it can cause shock and kill someone within hours. An oral rehydration solution or IV fluids are necessary to treat the illness.

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