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Doctors are treating Stephanie Schnurr's 15-month-old daughter, Mersadiz, for meningococcal infection. ((Courtesy Stephanie Schnurr))

A Calgary mother is anxiously watching over her daughter, one of two cousins hospitalized for meningococcal infection, a serious bacterial illness that can cause meningitis.

"It's just a waiting game to see how it goes," Stephanie Schnurr said outside the Alberta's Children's Hospital on Friday.

Doctors are treating Schnurr's 15-month-old girl Mersadiz and her nephew Dayon, 3, for meningococcal infection. The cousins live together.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis:

  • Sudden onset of fever.
  • Very bad headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Bright lights hurting the eyes.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Sometimes a purple or red rash.

For infants, symptoms may include:

  • Seizures.
  • Feeding poorly.
  • High-pitched cry or moaning.
  • Change in behaviour (sleepy, fussy, crying a lot).
  • Bulging or tight "soft spot" on top of the head.

Source: Chinook Health Region

Schnurr said her daughter is on a breathing tube, but seems to be improving.

"The nurses have been letting me help out with some things, so when she needs her diaper change I get to help," she said. "I get to do my motherly things."

Dayon's suspected infection, which hasn't been confirmed, was caught in the early stages after Mersadiz was admitted to the hospital.

"He's doing really well because we caught it so early," Schnurr said.

Schnurr's father Paul Biron said it's a very difficult time for the family. He wants other parents to watch out for the symptoms of the disease.

"There's not much you can do but catch it early and hope to hell that it's going to work out for the best," he said.

People who lived with the children or visited their home are receiving preventive antibiotic treatment, and health officials are investigating whether others who came in contact with the residents will need to be treated.

Health officials said Thursday the two cases do not constitute an outbreak.

"It's important for people to understand that while meningococcal infections are uncommon, these two cases by themselves do not constitute an outbreak," Dr. Jim Kellner, an infectious disease specialist at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, said  in a statement.

"That said, it is important that people do the most they can to protect themselves, particularly by ensuring their children have been properly and fully vaccinated. It also important for the public to be aware of the symptoms and signs of potential meningococcal infection."

Boy died of meningitis earlier in the week

Health authorities said there is no evidence of a link between these two cases and the meningitis death of a  Lethbridge boy, 7, on Monday night.

There is also "no firm evidence" that the boy's illness was caused by meningococcus rather than another bacterium, a release from Alberta Health Services said.

Meningococcal disease can be spread through close contact, such as coughing, sneezing or kissing.

An infection can cause sepsis, a serious infection of the blood and other parts of the body. It can also cause meningitis, the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, which can be fatal.

Since 2002, Alberta has vaccinated children against three of the most common bacteria that cause meningitis, including meningococcus.

"While very effective, the vaccines do not protect against every strain of these three bacteria," the Alberta Health Services release said.

Alberta sees, on average, 20 cases of meningitis each year, of which about four are fatal.