Pilgrims returning from Mecca were today urged to be on the alert for meningitis after a case of the disease was identified in Bradford.

The person was infected with the rare W135 strain of the illness - which has also been seen across the country in 12 other cases linked with the Haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Saudi Arabia.

Four people have died from this disease in recent weeks.

Health chiefs said today the Bradford victim - who has not been identified - was improving in hospital.

They believe the case could be linked with the Haj as the W135 strain is uncommon in Britain.

Immediate contacts of the patient are already being treated with protective vaccinations, but Bradford Health Authority's public health consultant, Dr Liz Kernohan, said the community in general should not be alarmed.

"This is not a disease which is easily transmitted from person to person - only through close contact.

"However, I would advise anyone who has recently returned from Haj in Saudi Arabia to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis, be vigilant and seek medical help urgently if they are at all concerned," she said.

Public information about meningitis and the need to be aware of the symptoms is being circulated through GP practices and community centres in the area.

Liaqat Hussain, president of the Council for Mosques in Bradford, said: "This is a serious disease. People need to be aware of this and need to be aware of

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