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Drug-resistant swine flu strain spread between patients at a Welsh hospital; World's first person-to-person spread of Tamiflu-resistant strain.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

THE first European cases of a strain of swine flu which cannot be treated with the drug Tamiflu have been diagnosed in Wales.

The five patients at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, could also be the first confirmed cases of person-toperson transmission of Tamiflu-resistant swine flu in the world.

Two of the patients have been treated and discharged, one is in critical care and the remaining two are on a ward receiving treatment.

It is thought that they contracted the virus, which must be treated with an alternative antiviral medicine, while they were in hospital.

Public health officials last night took steps to reassure the public that Tamiflu, which is also known as oseltamivir, is safe.

The Government stockpiled millions of doses of the drug, which can cut the duration and severity of flu infections, before the emergence of the swine flu pandemic in April.

The drug has been used as a first line treatment in those people who become infected and have underlying health problems, putting them at greater risk of complications.

Dr Roland Salmon, director of the National Public Health Service for Wales' (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."

The NPHS last night said that all the patients at UHW who have been diagnosed with Tamiflu-resistant swine flu have been treated with an either been isolated or are being cared for in a designated area for influenza cases. All other patients on the unit have also been tested for swine flu. The NPHS said that Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has ensured that all appropriate infection control measures are in place on the unit. Patients and staff at the unit have been offered swine flu vaccines and those patients due to come onto the unit for treatment will be contacted over the weekend and advised to have the swine flu jab before they are admitted. Household contacts of the patients with swine flu are also being followed up to ensure early and appropriate treatment is offered should they develop flu-like symptoms. Dr Tony Jewell,Wales' chief medical officer, said:"We know that people with suppressed immune systems are more susceptible to the swine flu virus, which is why they are a priority group under the first phase of the vaccination programme in Wales which is progressing at pace. "We have stringent processes in place for monitoring for antiviral resistance in the UK so that we can spot resistance early and the causes can be investigated and the cases managed. "Identifying these cases shows that our systems are working so patients should be reassured. "Treatment with Tamiflu is still appropriate for swine flu and people should continue to take Tamiflu when they are prescribed it. "It's also important that good hygiene practices are followed to further prevent the spread of the virus." The emergence of Tamifluresistance swine flu is not unheard of - the World Health Organisation said 28 resistant viruses have been detected and characterised. The emergence of Tamifluresistant swine flu at UHW came a day after the swine flu-related death toll rose to 21 in Wales and it was confirmed that children under five will be offered the swine flu jab. Wales sees world's first drug-resistant flu spread in ward WalesOnline.co.uk/news and check our interactive swine flu map CLICK ON
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Title Annotation:News; Front Page
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 21, 2009
Words:662
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