Fresh Majorca meningitis cases

British holiday companies sought to stop a stampede of cancellations yesterday, after it was disclosed that two more children had contracted meningitis on Majorca.

Fifty tourists have already been flown home by holiday company First Choice. A further 200 have asked to be moved from accommodation close to the outbreaks, but the company insisted the Spanish island was safe.

The latest outbreaks follow the death last Monday of Chris Richards, 13, of Middleton-on-Sea, West Sussex, during an Airtours holiday at the Alcudia Pins complex, Ca'n Picafort. An 11-year-old German girl died at the same complex the next day.

First Choice said yesterday that one of the latest victims, five-year- old Michaela Leyland, from the north-west of England, is critically ill but stable in the intensive care ward at Son Duereta Hospital in Palma.

The other victim, Thomas O'Neil, three, from Leeds, who was staying at the Playa Ca's Sabones Hotel in Palma Nova, is due to be discharged from hospital later today after recovering from the disease.

Gerry Reilly, Airtours operations director, said it would be "irrational" for holidaymakers to cancel their holidays.

"In the UK there are 2,500 cases of meningitis a year - that's 50 a week," he said. "There have been four in Majorca. It isn't statistically particularly remarkable. It's a busy island. The four cases are completely unrelated. It's not abnormal to have this many people contracting it."

First Choice said: "We have taken medical advice from Professor Cartwright, director of the Public Health Laboratory South, who confirmed advice given by the Department of Health that customers travelling to Majorca don't need to alter their travel arrangements."