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Caithness News Bulletins March 2004

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On Tuesday 29 March 2004 another man working for a sub-contractor in the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay, was admitted to hospital with probable meningitis, though the type has yet to be confirmed.

Dr Ken Oates, Consultant in Public Health Medicine for NHS Highland said “On the basis that there is a strong possibility that this is a further case of meningococcal meningitis it has been decided to extend the offer of antibiotics to include all those who work on a regular basis in the Prototype Fast Reactor. Further advice and an update on the situation was given to all members of the workforce at Dounreay On Wednesday 30 March.”

Two employees, both male and working in the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay, were hospitalised with suspected meningitis two weeks ago. Both were subsequently confirmed as suffering from meningococcal meningitis and are recovering following treatment. All close family contacts of the two men were offered antibiotics as a routine measure in line with national guidance. Limited numbers of close work colleagues were also offered antibiotic prophylaxis at this time. Letters giving advice about meningitis were given to all members of the workforce at Dounreay at that time.

The bacterium causing meningococcal meningitis is a normal inhabitant of the human nose and throat and is transmitted from person to person by droplets or secretions from the upper respiratory tract.

When a case of meningococcal meningitis has been confirmed it is important to give antibiotic prophylaxis to the group of people who have been in close contact to the case in the week before the person became ill. Usually, the people at highest risk are those who live in the same household as the case. In certain situations, for example schools or the workplace where there has been a cluster of cases within a short period of time, then consideration is given to providing antibiotic prophylaxis to a wider group of contacts of the case.

The aim of antibiotic prophylaxis is to reduce the risk of contracting the disease by eradicating carriage of the organism in the group of close contacts at highest risk.

The decision about who should receive antibiotic prophylaxis is guided by national policy.