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Swine Flu Spreads, Fall Flu Season Looms

Health Officials Warn About Swine Flu's Potential in Fall Even as Some Guidelines Are Eased

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That web site advises families to make preparations for a flu pandemic:

• Store a two-week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.

• Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.

• Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

• Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

• Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.

• Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.

Will there really be a pandemic? The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet declared one, but it will do so if H1N1 flu takes root outside North America. So far, there has been only sporadic spread.

But the WHO takes pandemics very seriously. Why? Previous pandemics eventually spread to a third of the world's population, said Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment, at today's WHO briefing.

"When you look at a third of 6 billion people, that is a lot," Fukuda said. "So even if on an individual basis the disease is mild, there are still some people dying and getting pneumonia. Multiply that by the number getting infected, and there are very large numbers of people who could develop pneumonia, require respirators, and die."

"This is a benchmark from the past," Fukuda added. "It is not a prediction for the future."

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