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US gears up for pandemic

5th February 2007

04032006_Chickens1.jpgHealth authorities and government officials in the United States have stepped up preparations for an influenza pandemic, issuing guidelines and a severity index via a new Web site.

The new Web site, at www.pandemicflu.gov, aims to offer a one-stop information service on pandemic flu. The government has also launched a consultation process to gather feedback on the guidelines.

The Pandemic Severity Index is different from the World Health Organization's alert system on the threat of a pandemic, in that it aims to tell people how bad the pandemic is when it happens.

Category 5 would indicate a pandemic similar to the 1918 influenza pandemic, in which 50-100 million people died.

Category 1 would be similar to a severe influenza season. The categories are based on the estimated number of deaths.

The guidelines aim to limit the spread of infection, and might trigger the closure of schools and changes in working practices like telecommuting to minimise social contact.

The Web site is run by the Department of Health and Human Services in English and Spanish and contains resources, guidelines on planning for and managing an outbreak, medical explanations and statistics on the avian and pandemic flu situation on a national and state by state basis, and in the rest of the world. It has links to other relevant sites.

It also allows the public and communities to give feedback and express opinions on the guidelines and other government policies and actions relating to pandemic preparation and management.

The department has begun to issue public service announcements on radio and television to raise public awareness.

 

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