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Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- The 2-year-old girl from Ireland had a fever of nearly 105, a fast-spreading rash and was losing the ability to breathe.

ER staff in south Fort Myers inserted a tube into her windpipe, gave her fluids and pumped her full of antibiotics in a frantic effort to stave off the need to amputate a limb — or quite possibly, the girl's death.

A rare and nasty blood infection, known as meningococcemia, was to blame.

On Wednesday, the girl, Katie Vernon, was infection-free and on the mend. The 16 days of treatment at the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida had worked. The reason she was infected remains a mystery.

"It's scary," said Janet Vernon, the girl's mother, from her hospital room. "But, for some reason, personally, I (had) this unfailing faith in the doctors and nurses that they (would) just fix her — you know, make her better — and they did, thank God."

But there was no guarantee.

Without immediate treatment, such infections trigger dangerous blood clots and can cause body tissue to die. Amputation or death can come quickly after that.

Katie was in critical condition shortly after her arrival last month at Golisano. She needed "large doses" of fluids and three types of medication to increase her blood pressure and improve the pumping of her heart. The breathing tube stayed in for 12 days, and doctors kept her on the medication for two weeks.

The Vernons, who live in Dublin, were on vacation in Cape Coral when the girl got sick.

Dr. Roberto Monge, Katie's intensive-care unit physician, said it's likely the girl became infected in Ireland, where such cases are more common. More evidence of that: The Vernons' other daughter had had a similar infection, the family said.

Katie's parents said that previous experience with this kind of infection led them to take her to the hospital not long after her first symptoms. Medical staff said that may have saved the girl's life.

She is expected to make a full recovery. Monge said the longest-lasting reminder of her illness will likely be a purple blotch on her left toe caused by now-halted tissue damage.

"She's almost back to normal," Janet Vernon said. "She's not eating as much or drinking as much, but she's walking around and is stronger."

Meningococcemia is caused by neisseria meningitis bacteria. The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has counted seven such cases since 2011, making it "pretty uncommon," said spokeswoman Diane Holm.

But Katie's was the most serious case Golisano hospital staff has seen in the better part of a decade, Monge said.

"Because of good pediatric care, the use of vaccines, this particular disease is not as prevalent as it once was before," Monge said. "In this area, I think the last case we saw of a bad disease because of this kind of bacterial infection was six years ago."

The infection is scary, but Monge said it's not something that the general public should be concerned about. Bacteria, good and bad, are common in the environment. Sometimes people get an infection, he said.

"This is not anything out of space," he said. "This is nothing that we need to be very anxious or very worried about."

Deadly infection

Meningococcemia is a rare, but life-threatening, bacterial bloodstream infection most common in children between the ages of 2 and 5, according to Lee Memorial Health System. Without quick treatment, the child can get blood clots, amputation-causing tissue damage, or die.

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