The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says millions of volunteers in 186 countries are being mobilized to help communities protect themselves from becoming infected with swine flu.  The Red Cross says it is taking immediate steps to support the swift scaling up of pandemic preparedness, mitigation and response operations.  

The International Red Cross Federation says it may be too late to contain the outbreak of swine flu, but it is not too late to reduce its impact.  Senior Health Specialist, Dr. Tammam Aloudat, estimates more than 130 national societies are active in mitigating the impact of the flu virus.

He says operations will vary greatly from one country to another.  But, millions of volunteers will be involved in spreading key life-saving messages to their local communities.

"The activities they do will range greatly," Dr. Aloudat said.  "Depending on their context, they will work on raising awareness of the community.  They will work on actual surveillance, referral of cases.  But, above all, we believe that within the influenza and the lessons we know from previous pandemics, it is a few activities, it is a few simple community based behaviors that will play a major role in preventing the spread of the disease further, of limiting the casualties, limiting the morbidity and mortality."   

While recognizing the threat of a global pandemic is serious, the Red Cross cautions against causing unnecessary panic.  It says governments and local organizations have done a huge amount of work to prepare for the possibility of a flu pandemic.  

Red Cross pandemic influenza specialist Pierre Duplessis says the most effective measures are those directed toward communities.

"That will be community mobilization to make sure that quarantines are respected, that isolation of sick people will happen," Duplessis said.  "That those sick people will voluntarily respect their quarantine and will stay in their house.  We have to make sure that these houses in quarantine will also be supplied with food, with water, etc., etc.  And, measures of hygiene-washing hands for instance-you know coughing in your shirt, in your sleeves.  These are important measures not to contaminate others.  And, as simple as it may seem it will save a lot of number of lives."  

The agency says it is too soon to know whether a swine flu pandemic would be mild or severe, but the Red Cross is launching a preliminary appeal for nearly $4.5 million to fund its flu mitigating operations.