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Flu pandemic: Are we ready for the 'big one?'

The world's last pandemic was in 2009 with the emergence of the H1N1 swine flu.

A widespread flu outbreak continues to rattle the nation, according to health officials.

While doctors have categorized it as an epidemic, a pandemic with the potential of taking 20 million lives is on the horizon.

The world's last pandemic was in 2009 with the emergence of the H1N1 swine flu.

"The way that the flu vaccine is created right now is in eggs, so that process is very slow. It takes about thirty weeks."

Dr. Rachel Lee blames the long vaccine incubation time for the strain's big impact in 2009.

"As soon as doctors could track the swine flu they were able to start making it in the eggs. But it took thirty weeks, and so we happened to miss the peak time when so many cases were occurring," said Dr. Lee.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 150,000 and 575,000 people died worldwide.

The most severe pandemic occurred in 1918, causing 50 million global deaths, according to the CDC.

There is a breakdown of how the disease spreads but many are not aware of the vast difference. So what exactly is a pandemic?

"It will start off in an animal such as a pig or bird, and it will jump to humans. Then because we are not vaccinated...that can cause widespread illness," said Dr. Lee.

Fearful questions have arisen about a potential pandemic crisis and the millions of lives that could be wiped out.

However, Dr. Lee is hopeful that medical advancements will prevent the worst case scenario.

"We can help [people] with their breathing, treat them with medications that we have such as Tamiflu so hopefully the numbers wont be as bad as [projected]," said Dr. Lee.

Dr. Lee believes "recombinant DNA technology" may allow for doctors to more expediently create vaccines.

One report says that reducing the vaccine creation time from 30 to 6 weeks could save more than 19 million lives.

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