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Preparing for swine flu
How to read a White House warning that as many as half the population could get infected by the H1N1 virus
T

he "swine flu panic express" is picking up speed, said Yael T. Abouhalkah in the Kansas City Star. A new White House report says up to 150 million Americans -- half the population -- could get the H1N1 virus. The specter of such a huge outbreak is adding pressure for the quick release of a vaccine, but "no one knows for sure yet whether the vaccine will work."

Everybody take a deep breath, said Laura Blue in Time. Yes, the report, by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, said that 60 million to 120 million people could be hit hard enough to show swine flu symptoms, 1.8 million could end up in a hospital, and 30,000 to 90,000 could die. But the report "notes prominently and often that, even though the up-to-50-percent-infected scenario is plausible, it is by no means certain."

Maybe, but outbreaks of the H1N1 virus are becoming more frequent already, said Michael Roberts in Politics Daily. Still, a massive vaccination effort—targeting highly susceptible young people—is on the way, and "basic hygiene measures like hand-washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding sick people" can be effective in preventing infection. So check out the CDC's "H1N1 and You" Web page: Information may be your best defense.

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