Public health experts are urging parents to vaccinate their youngsters against meningitis after a toddler was struck by the potentially-fatal disease.

Two-year-old Reece Palmer, from Banbury, is slowly recovering from meningococcal septicaemia at The Horton Hospital after falling ill on Easter Sunday.

Now Oxfordshire Health Authority is urging parents of two-to-five-year-olds to make sure they inoculate their children against the C strain as soon as their doctors notify them.

Reece was staying with his father, Chris, 21, of Forgeway, Banbury, for the weekend when he became ill. He started complaining of hallucinations and had a soaring temperature. A doctor told Mr Palmer to give his son infant paracetamol, but the next day Reece was covered in a rash. He was taken to hospital, where he was put in an isolation room on a children's ward.

Reece's mother, Rachel Conway, 21, of Stanbridge Close, said she was thankful her son's condition was improving.

A spokesman for The Horton said: "We are not worried about Reece now. He is doing well and is getting better."

Reece, who contracted the C-strain virus, would not have been vaccinated because only 15-17-year-olds and under-twos have been offered the jab. Pre-school children are the next group to be targeted via GP surgeries across the county.

Mr Argent said the scare should be a warning to parents to ensure children were vaccinated.

He said: "Two-to-five-year-olds should all be called up by their GPs in the next few months and we are urging parents to vaccinate their children.

"We have had 21 cases of meningitis since January and only one of those was the C strain, which is less than expected and shows that the vaccine is worth having."

The C strain accounts for 40 per cent of all cases, while the rest is caused by B strain.