Red Cross readies volunteers for swine flu

Red Cross readies volunteers for swine flu Geneva - The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies said it was "on full global alert" owing to concerns over the spread of swine flu.

"We have already have mechanisms in place for pandemic preparedness and response globally," said Paul Conneally, a spokesman for the IFRC in Geneva. Like other international organizations, his was "hoping the worst case scenario won't be the case."

The IFRC, which was in a "global preparedness stage," comprises all national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

In Mexico, the most affected country so far, the local Red Cross was putting its volunteers from 486 local branches on "high alert," and was said to be working with the authorities to limit the spread of the disease.

Conneally said volunteers from societies were gearing up to assist their governments, including by reaching out to remote communities. Also, they would distribute drugs and protective gear, if needed.

He concurred with a World Health Organization (WHO) official who said that the response to the avian flu outbreak several years back had helped prepare governments and health groups for swine flu.

"The best case scenario right now would be for national level epidemics to be managed which would lessen the likelihood of a widespread global pandemic," said Dominique Praplan, head of the IFRC's health department, in a statement.

The Red Cross and WHO said they were still investigating the nature of the flu. (dpa)