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DALLAS The start of school and flu season is just around the corner. Some medical professionals are getting training on equipment that could save lives if there is another swine flu outbreak.

North Texas learned the hard way that the H1N1 virus attacks children particularly severely; their lungs are most vulnerable.

An ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine can keep the heart and lungs working even when they fail. During swine flu season last year, Children's Medical Center Dallas used it to save at least four lives.

This is one of the first therapies that worked well in children first, and is now moving back into the adult world particularly in the era of swine flu, said pediatric intensive care specialist Dr. James Thomas.

Dr. Thomas is now training other health care workers to use the ECMO, including a group from Bogota, Colombia. Despite a population of 10 million people, Bogota has no technology like it.

During the last influenza outbreak, we had 30 kids who died in the city, which is a large number, said Dr. Gabriel Cassalett. We know that many of those kids could have been saved with ECMO in this case.

With the knowledge that the South American medical team takes from this training, they hope it can save lives when swine flu strikes again.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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