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A few days of fever, chills and generally feeling awful: that's a typical case of the flu. But many times a century, flu viruses change so radically that they can trigger a pandemic - as health experts fear could happen with the swine flu.

The history of influenza may go all the way back to the beginning of medicine; a similar illness was first described by Hippocrates in Greece in 412 B.C. In 1485, a flu-like 'sweating sickness' swept across Britain, leaving many dead - and treatments of the time, including bleeding, did not help.

The latest pandemics, in 1957 and 1968, were mild, with global death tolls of about 2 million and 1 million respectively. But doctors live in fear of a killer like the 1918 Spanish flu, which caused up to 100 million deaths. Undertakers were so overwhelmed that corpses were left inside homes for days. Cities passed laws requiring citizens to wear masks in public places, but the virus defeated that barrier; little slowed the spread of the disease.

From 1917-1918, average life expectancy in the U.S. dropped an amazing 12 years. Cruelly, the 1918 virus was especially lethal in young and healthy people. The disease seemed to trigger a massive overreaction of victims' immune systems; when autopsies were performed on flu victims, lungs were found to be blue and filled with water. They had died by drowning. The Spanish flu pandemic ended only when the virus had infected so many people that it burned itself out.

The most recent pandemic in 1968 is called the Hong Kong flu after its origin. The virus is comparatively mild. In 2003, Southeast Asia suffered from the H5N1 avian flu. The governments responded by stockpiling the antiviral Tamiflu.

Today, doctors have better tools - antivirals and respirators - that would cut the potential death toll. But influenza is unpredictable. Decreasing transmission is the best strategy to prevent the A (H1N1) flu outbreak. The more everyone follows the practices below, the safer YOU are from it.

First, keep your hands clean. Wash your hands after contact with common surfaces and utensils. Make sure you wash your hands properly. Next, practise cough and sneeze etiquette. You have to sneeze or cough into a tissue. Wash your hands after throwing it away. If you have a cold or sniffles, and need to be in crowded, public areas, wear a mask.

Of course, if you are ill with flu-like symptoms, stay at home. Seek medical treatment if symptoms get worse. Minimise contact with friends and relatives.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. From paragraph 1, what are health experts afraid of ?
  2.

From paragraph 2,

a) who is the father of medicine ?

b) which expression tells you that a pandemic took place in Britain ?

  3.

From paragraph 3,

a) how many people died of flu in 1968 ?

b) which word tells you that the Spanish flu affected many people ?

c) did wearing masks in public help to stop the flu from spreading ?

  4.

From paragraph 5,

a) in which place did the flu start ?

b) what was the medicine to take to cure the avian flu ?

  5.

From what you have read in this article, give two characteristics of a pandemic.

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Answers
 

1.

They are afraid that the swine flu virus will change so greatly that it causes a pandemic.
 

2.

a) Hippocrates

b) Swept across

 

3.

a) 1 million.

b) Killer

c) No, it did not.

 

4.

a) Hong Kong.

b) The antiviral Tamiflu.

 

5.

a) Many people are affected by it.

b) People all over the region or the world is affected.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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