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Report Gives U.S. Good Grades for Swine Flu Response
Date:6/4/2009

But it also said the health-care system would be overburdened if an outbreak were more severe

THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) --Although the U.S. response to the ongoing H1N1 swine flu outbreak that surfaced unexpectedly in April has been largely effective, there are shortcomings that must be addressed.

And those shortcomings could take on added urgency if the virus returns in a more virulent form in the fall, a new report found.

"It's clear that all of our pandemic planning and preparation have improved the nation's ability to respond to an outbreak, but H1N1 did not test the limits of our response," Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, said at a news conference Thursday to announce the release of the report, Pandemic Flu: Lessons from the Frontlines.

"If, in the future, we face a situation with a large number of Americans becoming ill and flooding into hospitals and health-care facilities, our system could be overwhelmed," he added.

Chief among the strengths of the U.S. response was the investment the nation has made over the last decade or so in planning for a pandemic flu and stockpiling antiviral medications. Those were decisions that "really paid off," Levi said.

On the other hand, the H1N1 swine flu posed a very different challenge than the one that health officials had been planning for, said Dr. David Fleming, director of public health for Seattle and King County, Wash.

"Most of the planning was for a severe form of influenza [avian flu] for which we would have six weeks' notice because it emerges in the Far East," said Fleming, who spoke at the news conference. "We were wrong on two counts. The swine flu was of normal virulence and we had no warning. In the first couple of days, we were adhering to our plan with policies and procedures that did not match the severity of the strain."

That realization offered another lesson le
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