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Saturday, 21 November 2009

New Swine Flu Resistant To Drugs

A form of swine flu that is resistant to antiviral drugs has begun spreading between hospital patients in Wales, health officials said.

A strain that appears resistant to Tamiflu, the most common treatment has infected five patients at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. All of them had serious underlying health conditions.

One patient apparently developed resistance to the antiviral drug and the strain was then passed on to others, the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) said. The case is thought to be the first time in Europe that a drug-resistant strain has passed between people.

Two of the five patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, one is in critical care and two are being treated on the ward. Britain has bought enough doses of Tamiflu, which can shorten the duration of swine flu and reduce the risk of complications, for half of the population.

There have been several dozen reports around the world of people developing resistance to Tamiflu, but there has been only one case of person-to-person transmission of a Tamiflu-resistant strain, between two people at a summer camp in the United States.

The Department of Health said that it was taking the cases seriously, but added that the risk to the general population was low.

“The Tamiflu-resistant virus has emerged in a group of particularly vulnerable individuals . . . these patients are known to be at increased risk of developing resistance to the drug, a spokesman for the Department of Health said.

“Our strategy to offer antivirals to all patients with swine flu is the right one — to help prevent complications and reduce the severity of the illness.”

The NPHS said that the resistant strain did not appear more severe than the virus circulating since the spring. All patients have been tested and those with the resistant strain have been given other antivirals.

Dr Roland Salmon, director of the NPHS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said: “The emergence of influenza A viruses that are resistant to Tamiflu is not unexpected in patients with serious underlying conditions and suppressed immune systems, who still test positive for the virus despite treatment.

“In this case, the resistant strain of swine flu does not appear to be any more severe than the swine flu virus that has been circulating since April. For the vast majority of people, Tamiflu has proved effective in reducing the severity of illness.

“Vaccination remains the most effective tool we have in preventing swine flu so I urge people identified as being at risk to look out for their invitation to be vaccinated by their GP surgery.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A DEADLY plague on the way - worse than swine flu

A DEADLY plague could sweep across Europe, doctors fear, after an outbreak of a virus in Ukraine plunged the country and its neighbours into a state of panic.

A cocktail of three flu viruses are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague, which it is believed may be far more dangerous than swine flu. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine.

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus. Samples have been sent to London for analysis.

President Yushchenko said: “People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century.”

In a TV interview, the President added: “Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine – two seasonal flus and the Californian flu

“Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation.”

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been touring hospitals where victims are being treated and presidential elections in January could be cancelled .

Four men and one woman have died from the flu in Lviv, said emergency hospital chief doctor Myron Borysevych. Two of the dead patients were in the 22-35 age group, with two others over 60. He diagnosed the disease as viral pneumonia.


“We have sent the analyses to Kiev. We don’t believe it’s H1N1 swine flu. Neither do we know what kind of pneumonia it is.”

Universities, schools and kindergartens have been closed, public meetings have been banned and theatres shut. Last week several border crossings in the country were also closed.

Last night reports emerged of profiteering over face masks, which have sold out since the outbreak. There are also incidents of anti-virus medication being sold for exorbitant prices. A spokesman for the World Health Organisation said: “We do not have a time scale for the results of the tests in London, although some preliminary results have been obtained. I cannot tell you what they are.

“We did not have enough of the virus samples so we will have to grow some more before we can come to a conclusive decision about its nature.”

Neighbouring Poland has called on the EU to take action, fearing the mystery virus may spread westwards.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk has written to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the EU presidency, saying: “The character of this threat demands that rapid action be undertaken at the European Union level.”

Russia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, countries that border Ukraine, have already launched health checks on Ukrainians entering their territory.

Slovakia has closed two of five border crossings.

A doctor in Western Ukraine who did not want to be named, said:” We have carried out post mortems on two victims and found their lungs are as black as charcoal.

“They look like they have been burned. It’s terrifying.”