World Health Organization warns of flu pandemic

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If you thought this last flu season was bad, you may be in for a shock. Experts from the World Health Organization said this week that the threat of a global influenza outbreak is as real as ever, despite advances in flu vaccinations and epidemiology.

A total of 241 of the 382 people who contracted the H5N1 strain of influenza (a.k.a bird flu) in the last five years have died from complications of the illness, according to WHO. If the disease mutates into a form easily transmitted between humans, scientists say, millions could die. The organization has stockpiled over five-million bird flu vaccines to be used in the event of a pandemic, ccording to Keiji Fukuda, coordinator for the WHO's Global Influenza Program.

A recent report published in the journal CHEST laid out guidelines for allocation of resources in the event of a pandemic emergency. The report suggested that very elderly and frail patients would not likely receive potentially life-saving treatments, due to their already diminished life expectancy. WHO is in the process of updating its own preparedness plan to include recent research and developments in dealing with the bird flu.