This disease took Vicki Christina Ellis so quickly her two teenage sons had no chance to say goodbye to her.

The 34-year-old died in Waikato Hospital of group C meningococcal disease, 25 hours after experiencing the first symptoms.

She is one of nine people to have become sick with meningococcal disease in the Waikato this year, and one of two deaths.

A young child died in the hospital on August 13. Ms Ellis died on June 9.

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Her mother, Dawn Ellis, of Thames, spoke publicly about her daughter's death yesterday, because of an outbreak of the group C disease in Northland which has led the area's health board to undertake mass vaccination of children and teenagers.

Wellingtonians were yesterday warned by their public health service to be alert for symptoms of the disease, after the death of one person and the infection of four others in the area this month.

But Northland, where the incidence is at least three times what is considered usual, is the only area experiencing higher numbers of cases than usual.

Ms Ellis worked at Noel Leeming at the Base. She lived in Hamilton with her sons, Clayton, now aged 17, and Nicholas, 13, her partner Jon Mansfield, and her sister Debbie.

Mrs Ellis said her daughter's death had been a terrible shock.

"She's got the two boys and of course they didn't get to say goodbye to her because they didn't know she was that sick. Nobody realised, even her partner."

Ms Ellis started feeling unwell and vomited the day before she died.

"[Debbie] had to call the ambulance because she [Vicki] was having a fit. She said she was hot and cold.

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"Then Debbie couldn't understand her. She was waving her arms around as if she was hurting somewhere but Debbie couldn't get out of her what was the matter.

"By the time they got her into hospital, I don't think she came round after that."

Mrs Ellis arrived at the hospital at 4 o'clock the following morning.

"We had to wait around because they were doing tests - they thought she might have blood poisoning.

"When we went in it just looked like she was sleeping. She didn't have any rashes or anything like they thought she might have.

"We didn't get to speak; even [Debbie] didn't get to talk to her after that. [Debbie] thought she was in an induced coma, but I think it was the bug had taken over. They had her on IVs [intravenous drips] and oxygen, the whole thing."

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Mrs Ellis said the infection took hold quickly. . "My husband thought it was about 25 hours and that was it."

Symptoms of meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection, can include high fever, sleepiness, muscle and joint pain, bad headache, stiff neck, aversion to bright lights, and an infant refusing feeds. A rash is a common late symptom. The disease can be readily treated by antibiotics if detected early.

KILLER BUG
* Wellington-Wairarapa region: 10 cases; 1 death.

* Auckland region: 28 cases; 1 death.

* Waikato: 9 cases; 2 deaths.

* Northland: 6 cases since July; 2 deaths.

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Health authorities say people should seek urgent medical care or phone Healthline, 0800-611-116, if the disease is suspected.