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"Among the many pandemic response issues, this is probably the most critical issue: how we mobilize the vaccines, how we get them to developing countries," Fukuda said.
WHO has stressed that most cases of swine flu are mild and require no treatment, but the fear is that a rash of new infections could overwhelm hospitals and health authorities, especially in poorer countries.
Shin said governments must act quickly to educate the public, prepare their health systems to care for severe cases and protect those deemed more vulnerable to prevent unnecessary deaths.
"We only have a short time period to reach the state of preparedness deemed necessary," Shin said. "Communities must be aware before a pandemic strikes as to what they can do to reduce the spread of the virus, and how to obtain early treatment of severe cases."
Pregnant women face a higher risk of complications, and the virus also has more severe effects on people with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and diabetes, WHO chief Margaret Chan said in a video address.
The last pandemic -- the Hong Kong flu of 1968 -- killed about 1 million people. Ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year.
Swine flu is also continuing to spread during summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Normally, flu viruses disappear with warm weather, but swine flu is proving to be resilient.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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