Healthy living

Tamiflu resistant swine flu now in UK

Person to person spread confirmed

A strain of swine flu which is resistant to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu has spread between patients in a South Wales hospital.

Five patients on a unit treating patients with severe underlying health conditions at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, have been infected.

Three patients appear to have been infected in hospital.

Although transmission between people of a drug resistant strain of the virus has been suspected in other parts of the world, this is believed to be the first time the spread has been confirmed.

All of the patients diagnosed with Tamiflu-resistant swine flu on the unit have been treated with an alternative antiviral, and all staff are being offered the swine flu vaccination.

Dr Roland Salmon, Director of the National Public Health Service for Wales 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.”

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, 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.”

Two of the patients with Tamiflu-resistant swine flu have recovered and been discharged from the hospital. One patient remains in critical care and two others are being treated on the ward.

This article was published on Fri 20 November 2009

Image © CDC C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish

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