Colds and flu

04 December 2009

Mutant swine flu kills Dutch man

Dutch authorities said a patient infected by a mutant strain of the swine flu virus had died.


Dutch authorities said a patient infected by a mutant strain of the swine flu virus had died.

Harald Wychgel, spokesman for the Dutch Institute for Health and the Environment, told AFP that there had been a "minor change in the virus to make it resistant to Tamiflu," a key treatment for influenza.

"The patient was already seriously ill and being treated for that. He was infected by the Mexican flu and developed a resistance to Tamiflu," Wychgel told AFP.

The Dutch ANP news agency said the man had died in hospital in the northern city of Groningen, adding that two more patients in the Netherlands had shown resistance to Tamiflu.

Fifth fatalaty

It is the fifth fatal case of mutated A(H1N1) flu in Europe, after two in France and two in Norway.

The World Health Organisation said last month that a similar mutation had been observed in Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, where the swine flu pandemic began, Ukraine, and the United States, as early as April.

Italy also reported a non-fatal case on Monday.

"The mutations appear to occur sporadically and spontaneously. To date, no links between the small number of patients infected with the mutated virus have been found and the mutation does not appear to spread," an earlier WHO statement said.

The WHO also underlined that there was no evidence of more infections or more deaths as a result, while the mutated virus remained sensitive to antiviral drugs used to treat severe flu, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

Fears of deadly flu

Scientists fear that mutations in flu viruses could cause more virulent and deadly pandemic flu. The global health watchdog reiterated a call for close monitoring.

"Although further investigation is under way, no evidence currently suggests that these mutations are leading to an unusual increase in the number of H1N1 infections or a greater number of severe or fatal cases," it added. - (Sapa/AFP, December 2009)


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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