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Health Officials See Similarities To 1918 Flu Pandemic

In Columbus, there are now two cases of confirmed swine flu, four suspected cases of swine flu, and one probable case of swine flu. While the numbers aren't as large as many had feared, public health officials are not letting down their guard just yet.

In the last week, there has been some criticism of the media and public health agencies. There are those who argue that these organizations are hyping the danger of the swine flu - and say that their predictions have fallen far short of actual events.

Despite this criticism, public health officials are still concerned about the swine flu's potential.

Doctor Mysheika Lemaile-Williams, Assistant Commissioner of Columbus Public Health, says that the swine flu is following the same pattern as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people worldwide. "It was a mild respiratory illness that started in the spring with a few cases," she says. "As the summer went on they didn't see the number of cases - that declined. And then when the fall came, they saw more cases, more morbidity and obviously, more mortality."

Lemaile-Williams said that while health officials are preparing for the worst, there is no way to tell whether something similar is going to happen this fall. "With any virus it's really hard to tell especially with the flu virus because it changes so quickly, so it's a wait-and-see," she says.

Lemaile-Williams says that while everyone is vulnerable to the flu, most everyone has immunities to several types of flu from previous exposure. She added that the Centers for Disease Control is working to create a vaccine that would protect people against strains of swine flu. "They're working to develop a vaccine now, and the hope I think and the intention is for it to be available come fall - flu season," she said.

Sadie Taylor, WOSU News.