A two-year-old Willits-area child is hospitalized with a suspected case of meningococcemia, a potentially life-threatening blood infection, Mendocino County health authorities have reported.

Citing privacy laws, health officials would not identify the child.

The disease killed 3-year-old Phoenix Hoang of Redwood Valley in February.

About 60 people thought to have had contact with the Willits child are being treated with antibiotics, health officials said.

The diagnosis has not yet been confirmed, they said.

Meningococcemia is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. It infects the bloodstream and attacks organs. It is caused by the same group of bacteria that cause meningitis, which affects the brain and spinal column.

It can be carried by people who are infected but do not become ill. It can kill or permanently disable those who contract the disease.

The bacteria is found in saliva and mucous and can be spread by kissing, coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms include irritability, fever, headache, sensitivity to light, altered consciousness and rash.

The incubation period lasts from two- to 10 days, officials said.

Once symptoms begin, they can swiftly turn deadly. Hoang was taken off life support just a few days after he fell ill.

Vaccinations are available only for some of the strains of the disease. Vaccines are readily available for people ranging in age from 11 to 55.