A Young Valley Boy Dies of Meningitis

KFSN County officials say there's no reason to suspect an outbreak of meningitis and parents should not panic.

But family members of a two year old Merced boy who died on Friday want others to be aware of the disease they say killed him and sent his young cousin to the hospital.

"He was our little guy..."

Jacob Hickman's parents are still in shock over the sudden death of their son. Just days ago they were planning his barney-themed third birthday, but now they are planning his funeral.

Tiffany Hickman, Mother: "It's a hard loss, and I don't want anyone else to go through it."

Jacob was diagnosed with an inner ear infection last week and treated with antibiotics, but he took a dramatic turn for the worse early Friday morning.

Jennifer McQuillen, Aunt: "He woke up at about 1:30 a.m. vomiting and complaining of pain in his ears and his feet and he had rashes covering his entire body."

The toddler was rushed to the hospital but died hours later.

Tiffany Hickman: "He was our, he was our baby."

Jacob's three year old cousin also became sick last week and is now being treated at Children's Hospital Central California. Merced County is investigating both children's illnesses as possible cases of meningitis.

Katie Albertson, Merced Co. Spokesperson: "The county health department treats a suspect case in the same way it treats a confirmed case, so they went ahead and took all necessary precautions immediately upon learning of the case."

During the investigation, the county also confirmed a young child who died last week was infected with meningitis. Spokesperson Katie Albertson says the cases appear to be two separate isolated incidents.

Albertson: "There's absolutely no outbreak of meningocoal disease in Merced County at this point."

But the health department is encouraging parents to be aware of the symptoms just as a precaution.

Albertson: "When they have a high fever and a headache or a rash it's important for them to take the child and seek medical attention immediately."

Officials say it may be difficult to tell if Jacob Hickman died from meningitis because the antibiotics in his system could affect the test results.

But this week the county is sending information about the disease to various health care providers, including those at local schools, as an additional precaution.

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