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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 12:33 GMT
Health expert flies to 'castaways' island

Castaways Antibiotics will be offered to the castaways

The Western Isles public health director has flown to the island of Taransay where the BBC Castaway 2000 volunteers have set up their temporary home.

Dr Michael George is keen to find out whether there is a link between illness suffered by a number of the group and the cases of meningitis among children on nearby Lewis.

It was thought three out of the possible six cases being investigated on Lewis could be connected to people who had been involved in building work for the television series on Taransay.

'Too early for conclusions'

Dr Ian Jones, of the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, said it was too early to say that the emergence of the two strains of meningitis had come from Taransay.

He added that the centre would be comparing notes with Dr George and his colleagues later on Tuesday.

As a precaution those taking part in the castaways project will be offered antibiotics to fend off the potentially killer bug.

Western Isles Council has stressed there has been no reported cases of infection among those on the island.

Needle First cases came to light last month
It was thought the fathers of two young suspected sufferers on Lewis had worked on constructing homes for the Castaway group.

And a person in their 50s, who was also being treated, had worked on the island.

The Robinson Crusoe-like project has already been affected by an outbreak of flu, customary bad weather and problems in building work.

Precautionary measure

A spokesman for Western Isles Council said: "There are no confirmed cases on Taransay. As a precautionary measure, all the castaways are to be tested and offered prophylactic antibiotics."

The attention of disease control experts in Glasgow was drawn to Lewis after the six people - five children and one adult - fell ill.

A member of the Scottish Environmental and Infectious Diseases Unit flew to the island.

Dr Ian Jones, director of SCIEH, said: ""There are only two confirmed cases on the Isle of Lewis at the moment.

Castaway Several setbacks for programme
"One is of Meningitis B and the other is Meningitis C. The C strain is what we are vaccinating against around the country but there is no vaccine for the B strain."

The other four patients were still undergoing tests.

The initial cases came to light at the beginning of last month and doctors believed they could have been sparked because of the flu epidemic which gripped the country over the festive period.

A BBC spokeswoman said the corporation and programme makers Lion Televison had consulted the relevant health authorities and were satisfied that all proper precautions were being taken.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  Entertainment
Castaways adrift over flu
27 Jan 00 |  Entertainment
'Mutiny' among TV castaways
01 Nov 99 |  Health
Mass meningitis vaccination programme begins
28 Jan 00 |  Health
Boy sent home twice dies of meningitis
07 Nov 99 |  Health
Cambridge meningitis students 'improving'
27 Jan 00 |  Health
Private GP 'denied meningitis vaccine'
05 Jul 99 |  Health
Call for meningitis jab scheme

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