A YOUNG woman was left just 30 minutes from death after her flu turned out to be deadly meningitis.

Lily O’Connell from Paddington in Sydney, was enjoying Christmas with her family last year she was started feeling unwell that evening.

Thinking it was the flu she laid down to rest but the 23-year-old was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with the meningococcal W strain after she began to vomiting and suddenly developed a rash on her face.

"I turned the light on and I saw the rash on her face," Lily’s mum Steph O’Connell told the ABC.

"It was underneath her skin."

After her diagnosis, Lily was told by doctors at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital that she could have been dead within 30 minutes if she’d ignored her symptoms.

"I am just so lucky I lived three minutes away from the hospital because the doctors told me later that I was only about 30 minutes away from that being it for me," she told Fairfax.

"If I’d waited any longer I probably wouldn’t have made it."

Lily, who still suffers from renal and adrenal failure, spent eight days in intensive care and a total of three weeks in hospital.

But she credits her mum for saving her life.

"Thankfully mum had a sixth sense," she said.

"I think that’s what saved me, that fast response."

The disease destroyed Lily’s kidneys, and she still spends five hours each day on dialysis.

Her sister, Grace, will be donating a kidney in two weeks’ time.

Despite being vaccinated for Meningococcal C, she hadn’t received the injection for the W strain.

At a press conference on Sunday, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a meningococcal vaccination program for school students in years 10 and 11 will be rolled out across the state in a bid to immunise the community against the disease.

More than 200,000 students have been vaccinated against multiple strains of meningococcal since 2017 in a $17 million (£10m) program.

The state-funded program includes the less common W strain because it has an eight per cent mortality rate — twice as high as other meningococcal strains — and diagnoses are on the rise.

The W strain became a concern for the state’s health authorities after diagnoses quadrupled between 2014 and 2016.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said adolescents were being targeted by the program because schools are an effective way to immunise high numbers of an at-risk group.

"If you experience symptoms including a sudden onset of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, joint pain or rash of red-purple spots, go straight to your nearest emergency department to seek help," Dr Chant said.

"Acting quickly can save your life."

In the UK teenagers going to university for the first time are advised by the NHS to have the MenACWY vaccine.

The MenACWY vaccine is given by a single injection and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia) A, C, W and Y.

It is offered for free to school children aged 13 to 14, older teenagers and young adults up until their 25th birthday.

Cases of meningitis and septicaemia due to Men W have been increasing in England, from 22 cases in 2009/10 to 210 in 2015/16, according to the NHS.

The increase is almost entirely down to how aggressive the meningitis W strain is.