A 3-year-old from Ukiah is in critical condition after contracting a potentially deadly form of bacterial meningitis.
Mendocino County Public Health Officials confirmed Saturday that the child has been diagnosed with meningococcemia, an infection of the bloodstream that can spread to spinal fluid.
The child developed flu-like symptoms Thursday morning, was brought to the hospital Thursday afternoon with a high fever and was quickly flown by helicopter to Children's Hospital in Oakland, Mendocino County public health nurse Erika Nosera said.
"This disease starts off with cold, almost flu-like symptoms but it escalates very, very quickly," Nosera said.
Symptoms include fever, headache, sensitivity to light, altered consciousness — particularly lethargy — and a rash with red or purple spots on the abdomen and extremities.
A test showed the presence of the neisseria meningitidis bacteria in the spinal fluid, a sign the disease had progressed significantly, Nosera said.
The disease is relatively rare, striking an average of 1,500 Americans annually. The risk of death with appropriate treatment is under 15 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The disease is spread through saliva or respiratory droplets. People can become infected if they are around someone with the condition who is coughing or sneezing. It also can be transmitted through kissing.
There is no indication that anyone else has contracted the disease, Nosera said.
"We're just hoping that this is it," she said.