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Person-to-person spread of Tamiflu-resistant strain investigated

Fergus Walsh | 15:19 UK time, Friday, 20 November 2009

I am indebted to a loyal follower of this blog for tipping me off about a breaking news story in Wales.

Health officials in Cardiff are investigating the spread of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu at University Hospital Wales. The strain has infected a small number of patients, all of whom have serious underlying health conditions.

Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, tells me that there have been 57 cases worldwide of people developing resistance to Tamiflu while taking the drug (seven of these in the UK).

But what happened at University Hospital Wales may be quite different. Here, someone developed resistance - and then, I understand, this strain appears to have been passed from person to person in the hospital.

There's been only one other similar case in the United States between two people at a summer camp, but the resistant strain did not spread any further. The CDC reported on this in September.

Health officials in Wales tell me that more tests are being carried out to confirm exactly what happened, and they are not yet confirming person-to-person spread.

All the patients are said to be recovering and being cared for in controlled environments, so there is no risk to anyone else.

Tamiflu is an antiviral and can reduce the risk of the complications of flu, as well as shortening the duration of the illness. The UK has enough doses for half the population. Any spread of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu would be a serious public health concern - but there is no evidence to suggest that this has happened.

Obviously this is a developing story, and I'll bring you more when I get it.

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