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 Virus mutation spreads as swine flu deaths leap 
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Post Virus mutation spreads as swine flu deaths leap
Virus mutation spreads as swine flu deaths leap

(AFP) – 1 hour ago ... vlKFzSgqdQ

PARIS — Swine flu virus mutations are spreading in Europe, French health officials said Friday as the World Health Organisation reported a leap in deaths from the disease by more than 1,000 in a week.

Two patients who were infected by a mutation that was also recently detected in Norway have died in France, the government's Health Surveillance Institute (InVS) said in a statement.

"This mutation could increase the ability of the virus to affect the respiratory tracts and, in particular, the lung tissue," said a statement from "For one of these patients, this mutation was accompanied by another mutation known to confer resistance to oseltamivir," it added, referring to the main drug being used to treat swine flu, under the brand name Tamiflu.

The case was the first drug-resistant strain found in France among the 1,200 strains experts have analysed here, the InVS said, adding that "the effectiveness of vaccines currently available is not being questioned."

The two patients were not related and had been hospitalised in two different cities in France, it said.

The WHO said Friday the death toll had reached at least 7,826 worldwide since the A(H1N1) flu virus was first uncovered in April.

The number of deaths reported to the UN health agency showed the biggest rise in the Americas, where 5,360 deaths have now been recorded compared to 4,806 a week ago.

But Europe also posted a substantial increase percentage-wise with at least 650 fatalities now reported, representing a surge of 300 deaths or 85 percent from data posted a week ago.

The WHO said Thursday it was investigating reports of mutations in the virus, after half a dozen countries recorded such cases.

"The question is whether these mutations again suggest that there is a fundamental change going on in viruses out there -- whether there's a turn for the worse in terms of severity," said Keiji Fukuda, WHO's special adviser on pandemic influenza.

"The answer right now is that we are not sure," he added following reports from China, Japan, Norway, Ukraine and the United States.

He noted, however, that mutations are common in influenza viruses, and "if every mutation is reported out there it would be like reporting changes in the weather."

"What we're trying to do when we see reports of mutations is to identify if these mutations are leading to any kinds of changes in the clinical picture -- do they cause more severe or less severe disease?

"Also we're trying to see if these viruses are increasing out there as that would suggest a change in epidemiology," he added.

China said earlier Thursday that it had discovered eight people with mutated versions of swine flu while Norway reported last week that it had detected one case.

Fukuda also said that the UN health agency was looking into Tamiflu-resistant cases reported in Britain and the United States but noted they concerned people who are already undergoing treatment for other diseases or who have underlying health issues.

The health agency was therefore maintaining its assessment that Tamiflu, produced by Swiss drugmaker Roche, remained "effective" as a treatment for swine flu, but that "we do have to be vigilant in these very susceptible people

Something is going to happen, but what?

Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:27 pm
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Post Re: Virus mutation spreads as swine flu deaths leap
Comments by Mike Coston of Avian Flu Diary; emphases are his.

Ambiguous Mutations

# 4093

If you follow the various flu forums, blogs, and websites you are probably aware that there has been a fair amount of discussion in recent days revolving around the `Norwegian’ and `Ukrainian’ mutations, and increased reports of Tamiflu resistant H1N1 viruses.

Don McNeil Jr. of the New York Times has an article about the WHO (World Health Organization’s) attempts to dampen fears over these reports, in a piece called Experts Say Swine Flu Mutations Do Not Warrant New Alarm. ... .html?_r=1

The tone of the message from the World Health Organization is one of reassurance, although they admit there are things they do not yet understand about these mutations.

I’ll grant that the first inclination of most governments or health agencies - when faced with disturbing news - is to ratchet down public concerns.

It is almost an autonomic reflex, and not always a bad thing. Particularly when there is a good deal of ambiguity about the threat.

My take is simply that mutations happen, and that we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see them when they do. As virologists like to say, `Shift Happens’ (more accurately `drift’ in this case).

But I’m not quick to jump on any viral bandwagon.

Which is why I tend not to become too alarmed over these reports. At least not until we can get some credible data and analysis.

Only time will tell if any of these mutations is `fit’ enough to compete with the existing virus strains and become a `contender’. Most mutations fail to thrive, and are destined to die out.

The isolation of a single mutation, or even a handful of them around the world, doesn’t automatically make for a public health threat, regardless of what the tabloid papers are saying.

But of course, every once in awhile . . . well, let’s face it. Every viral change started out small somewhere.

Are the `Norwegian Mutations’ (which actually have been seen in many places around the world) a big deal? Or the Tamiflu resistant strains?

We don’t know yet. Maybe. Stay tuned.

Good science takes time. You have to collect the data and then analyze it. And sometimes, the data can be confusing or misleading.

Hopefully we’ll have a better handle on all of this a week or two from now. But definitive answers could be months away.

Influenza is constantly fooling us, and the `rules‘ are rarely writ in stone. If any of these mutations end up being less benign than currently advertised, I figure that will become apparent over time.

For now, I regard these viral changes as worthy of our attention, but not our alarm.

This from the New York Times.

Experts Say Swine Flu Mutations Do Not Warrant New Alarm


Published: November 27, 2009

The World Health Organization tried this week to dampen fears about mutations seen in the swine flu virus in several countries, noting that both mutations had been found in very few people.

A change that created Tamiflu resistance has been found in about 75 people around the world, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, chief flu adviser to the W.H.O.’s director general. Two clusters, in cancer units at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and a hospital in Wales, were both among patients whose immune systems had been severely suppressed by cancer treatment; some had had their bone marrow, which produces infection-fighting white blood cells, wiped out so that replacement blood stem cells could be injected.

Such patients are more likely to develop resistant viruses when on Tamiflu because they can not clear a virus on their own. But the mutant strain appears not to spread easily in people with normal immunity, like hospital workers.

“We don’t know the full answer, but it is more likely that we are not seeing a major shift,” Dr. Fukuda said.

Widespread Tamiflu resistance is a serious problem in the seasonal H1N1 virus, but it has not crossed over into the swine H1N1.

(Continued here ... .html?_r=1 ) ... tions.html

"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." ~ Albert Einstein

Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:02 pm
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