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This paper outlines the risk assessment and communication strategy carried out by the Lothian Health Protection Team after notification of a probable case of meningococcal disease (later confirmed as Neisseria meningitidis) in a resident of a city centre backpackers' hostel. Six close contacts were identified from the hostel and given rifampicin prophylaxis. Two days after commencing rifampicin one of these contacts was admitted to hospital with a purpuric/petechial rash and thrombocytopenia. The final diagnosis for this contact was thrombocytopenia, either idiopathic or secondary to rifampicin. This example and the potential side effects of administering rifampicin prophylaxis highlight the importance of a thorough risk assessment of contacts of a case to avoid prescribing prophylaxis to anyone other than those at highest risk of becoming a subsequent case. .


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