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New swine flu 'drug-resistant'.

Byline: DANIEL DAVIES

FIVE patients diagnosed yesterday with Tamiflu-resistant swine flu at a Welsh hospital could be the world's first cases of person-to-person transmission of the strain.

Three of the five people on a unit for severe underlying health conditions at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, appear to have acquired the infection on the ward, the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) said.

The Government played down fears that the resistant strain could now become widespread after the Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed there had previously been "no documented episodes of person-to-person transmission".

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Examples of Tamiflu resistance are very rare, but when this does occur it has often been among these especially vulnerable patients.."

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has reported 57 incidents of Tamiflu resistance worldwide, received four reports of possible person-to-person transmission in a US hospital.

An HPA spokesman said the possibility that the American viruses have been transmitted within the hospital was also being investigation.

The Welsh cases occurred in patients with haematological problems who had compromised immune systems because of their disorder or because of chemotherapy, the agency added.

The HPA said in a statement: "To date, a total of nine (swine flu) confirmed cases have been reported amongst patients on a hospital ward in Wales.

"Five of these cases are known to be resistant to oseltamivir, one is sensitive and for three resistance status is presently unknown."

The statement said the risk to the general healthy population was "low".

It added: "There is no evidence that the oseltamivir-resistant virus is any more virulent than any other type of flu. The situation is being kept under review." Two of the five have recovered and have been discharged from hospital, one is in critical care and two are being treated on the ward.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has put appropriate infection control measures in place on the unit, the NPHS added. Dr Roland Salmon, director of the NPHS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said the emergence of a resistant strain was "not unexpected" in patients with serious underlying conditions.

Wales's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell said people with suppressed immune systems were designated as a priority group for vaccination because they were known to be more susceptible to the virus.

"Treatment with Tamiflu is still appropriate for swine flu and people should continue to take Tamiflu when they are prescribed it," he said.

News of the strain comes a day after it was announced that more than three million healthy children under five across the UK are to be offered the swine flu jab.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 21, 2009
Words:441
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