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Swine Flu Panic Grips Wimbledon

by VR Sreeraman on June 30, 2009 at 1:35 PM
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 Swine Flu Panic Grips Wimbledon

Swine flu fears hit the Wimbledon tennis tournament Monday as global infections topped 70,000 and Denmark reported the first case of resistance to the key Tamiflu drug used to treat the virus.

With the death toll from the pandemic at 311 and total cases at 70,893, according to the WHO, more countries reported their first A(H1N1) infections and Indonesia planned to ask some people arriving there to wear masks.


Australian researchers said a vaccine could be ready in months. However, Danish officials reported that a patient showed resistance to Tamiflu, considered a key treatment for the virus by the World Health Organization.

The Danish woman is no longer suffering from the illness, the Danish Institute of Serology said.

She had been in direct contact with a swine flu victim and was given a dosage of Tamiflu as a preventative measure, but she still contracted the virus.

That led doctors to give her another type of medication, Relenza, made by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Nils Strandberg, the institute's director, said he was satisfied with methods used to monitor swine flu, adding that "the spontaneous mutation of a flu virus is not unusual".

Swiss drugs company Roche, which makes Tamiflu, said the patient's resistance was expected and likely an individual case.

"It doesn't mean the circulating virus is resistant to Tamiflu," said David Reddy, Roche's pandemic task force leader.

The worries at Wimbledon came with play intensifying as the tournament entered its second week. Organizers said some staff members had reported "flu-like" symptoms but the competition would continue as normal.

Club sources told AFP a handful of ball boys and girls were affected but nobody had been confirmed as having contracted the virus.

Venus Williams, the defending Wimbledon ladies' singles champion, said she was not worried.

"I just got a letter. I haven't read it. But I guess there's sicknesses all around. Hopefully the players won't get sick," the US tennis champ said.

Nearly 6,000 swine flu cases have been diagnosed in Britain, the Department of Health reported, and a hospital said Monday a nine-year-old girl had become the third person with the virus to die.

The girl had underlying health problems and it was unclear whether swine flu had contributed to her death, Birmingham Children's Hospital said.

Elsewhere, the virus first discovered in late March continued its spread.

According to the WHO figures released Monday, the United States showed the largest increase in cases, bringing the total to 27,717, including 127 deaths, but that count may be massively low.

US health authorities said Friday that at least one million people in the United States had had swine flu.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived at its figure based on computer models and surveys of communities known to have been hard hit.

Australian researchers said Monday a vaccine could be ready in months as the country, the worst-hit in Asia-Pacific, reported two more deaths linked to the virus, taking the total to six.

University of Queensland scientists said they had produced the country's first batch of a vaccine developed in the United States.

Researcher Anton Middelberg said the company behind the FluBlok vaccine, Connecticut-based Protein Sciences Corporation, planned to run clinical human trials in the United States, Mexico and Australia.

"It all depends on the regulatory process but I'd say we are months away from a swine flu vaccine," Middelberg said.

Highlighting the virus's spread, Nepal, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, Kenya and Bosnia all reported their first cases Monday.

In Indonesia, the health minister said the government would ask all those arriving from swine flu-affected countries to wear masks for at least three days.

The presence of the virus was confirmed in Indonesia only last week and so far four of the eight known cases have been foreigners.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said the government would not enforce the precaution, which could damage the country's stuttering tourism industry.

"You can't expect people to wear masks when they're swimming," Supari said.

Source: AFP

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