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Panel Warns of 90,000 Possible US Flu Deaths


Many Americans are wondering what they can do to keep from getting the swine flu virus following Monday's announcement from President Barack Obama's science advisors, who say swine flu could infect half the U.S. population.

According to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the H1N1 virus could cause an estimated 90,000 U.S. deaths and nearly two million hospitalizations, with up to 300,000 requiring critical care this fall and winter. That would be in addition to the thousands of deaths normally caused by the more common flu.

In the United States, 522 people have died of swine flu and Center for Disease Control Director Thomas Frieden warns the situation could get worse. "The next few weeks and months will be a very challenging time," he said.

Children and young adults are particularly susceptible to the virus. With millions of children returning to the classroom, schools are also bracing for the return of the new flu strain.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says a massive school closing will not stop the spread of the flu. In an interview with NBC News, she says parents should begin taking steps to protect their children from the virus. "If you are a mom with a with a child with an underlying health condition, with asthma, with a neuromuscular disease, begin to talk to your doctor now about how to get anti-virals how to get prepared if your child has flu-like symptoms, because we know that is the population that is most at risk," she said.

The health and human services secretary says the first supplies of the new swine flu vaccine should be available in October. She hopes a good portion of the population will be immunized by the end of November.

Until then, she is urging Americans to protect themselves against another virus - the "seasonal flu" that causes 30,000 to 40,000 deaths a year, particularly among the elderly. "Seasonal flu vaccine is ready starting in the beginning of September. We want the population that is most at risk to get their season shots now to be in a healthier condition," she said.

U.S. health officials say they hope people get more serious about their health and the impact of swine flu. A Washington Post/ABC News poll last week showed most Americans are not concerned about the virus.

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