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LONDON (Reuters) - Health authorities across Europe are bracing for a third of their populations to become infected with the new swine flu virus this autumn, but do not plan to close schools or take other drastic measures to stop it.
Instead, they plan to educate people about hygiene, get vaccines out as soon as possible, and hope the H1N1 pandemic does not become deadlier than it has been.
Some 200,000 doses of vaccine have just been delivered in Britain by drug firm Baxter International and many other European countries are expecting it to arrive from October onwards. That should be just in time to prevent mass illness.
Companies making H1N1 vaccines include AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis AG, CSL and Sanofi Aventis.
Epidemiologist Giovanni Rezza, head of Infectious Diseases at Italy's Higher Health Institute said Italy, like Spain, France and others, aimed to vaccinate 30 to 40 percent of its population, a level he said was "practical and sensible."
"You have to consider that the indirect impact would be enough to stop the virus from spreading quickly among the population," he said.
France, where schools restart on September 2, unveiled its autumn swine flu plan this week, launching a month-long public information program of radio, television and Internet adverts urging people to keep clean and vigilant, and suggesting they should sneeze into their sleeves if they have no handkerchief to hand.
Slovenia and Austria have similar plans.
"All the teachers have been briefed ... and every household will get a leaflet with instructions on personal hygiene," said Slovenia's Health Ministry spokeswoman Irma Glaner.
In Spain, the socialist government plans to prioritize health workers and teachers when it gets a vaccine but has rejected opposition calls to delay the start of the new school term and a teachers union request for pregnant teachers to be allowed not to return until a flu vaccine arrives.