India reports first swine flu death

WASHINGTON: Health officials said today they had found cases of Tamiflu-resistant swine flu along the US border with Mexico, as India and South Africa announced their first deaths from the A(H1N1) virus.

“We have found resistance to Tamiflu on the border. We have observed some cases, few to be sure, in El Paso and close to McAllen, Texas,” said Maria Teresa Cerqueira, head of the Pan-American Health Organisation office in La Jolla, California.

Cases of A(H1N1) that were resistant to the anti-viral medicine have now been found in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong and Japan.

Experts had gathered in La Jolla on Monday to discuss the response to the outbreak, and warned that resistant strains were likely emerging because of overuse of anti-virals like Tamiflu.

“In the United States Tamiflu is sold with a prescription, but in Mexico and Canada it is sold freely and taken at the first sneeze. Then, when it is really needed, it doesn’t work,” said Cerqueira.

The Tamiflu-resistant cases were reported as South Africa and India both announced their first fatalities from the A(H1N1) virus.

In South Africa, health authorities said Ruan Muller, a 22-year-old student at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, had died after contracting the virus. “He died on the 28th (of July), but there had to be some testing done to ensure the cause of death. It was the A(H1N1) influenza,” said Fidel Hadebe, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of Health.

In India, authorities said a 14-year-old girl in Pune became the country’s first fatality from the virus. The teenager first felt unwell on July 21, complaining of a sore throat, runny nose and headaches. She returned to school the following day after the general symptoms improved, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

She then developed a fever again on July 25 and two days later was admitted to a private clinic for treatment. She was put on a ventilator in an intensive care unit and was treated with Oseltamivir, a generic brand of Tamiflu.

“Her condition deteriorated again with multi-system involvement and (she) expired on the evening of 03.08.09,”

the ministry said in a statement.