It is a first-aid kit like no other because inside the white pouch is information that could make a difference between panic and calm if a flu pandemic strikes. The multicoloured hard paperback Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Kit will go out to 20,000 households. The kit provides basic information on preparedness and urges those given a copy to read it carefully and share the health information with family and friends. Director of Health Lam Ping-yan, in its foreword, says: 'Community engagement is pivotal to mounting an effective response against a pandemic.' He hopes residents will understand the risks associated with a flu pandemic, 'take home important advice contained in this kit and practise it immediately'. Separately, Centre for Health Protection controller Leung Pak-yin said yesterday the centre would issue guidelines to private doctors to try to co-ordinate the use of the medicines Tamiflu and Ralenza to ensure a sufficient supply to last through a crisis. While the government does not have legal power over the use of medicines in private clinics, Dr Leung said he was confident that at the critical time, all doctors would co-operate. Dr Leung also urged that members of the public not rush out to buy anti-flu medicines in a panic. Hong Kong has already stockpiled 3.7 million tablets of anti-flu drugs, mainly Tamiflu. It is ordering an additional 16.8 million tablets at a cost of $254 million. With 20 million tablets to be maintained in the stockpile, 30 per cent of the population would be covered, one of the highest rates in the world. Dr Leung said priority would be given to medical staff, because they needed to maintain the health system, to patients and - in case of a bird-flu outbreak - to poultry workers involved in mass culling, as well as to law and order officers. He acknowledged that it was difficult to decide on the timing of when to give Tamiflu as a prophylaxis, or preventative medicine. Its effects last six to eight weeks. A flu pandemic would be expected to last for months, not weeks as was the case with Sars, he said. Temperature screening at the border would also not be as effective as a public health measure because flu patients might already be incubating the disease and spreading the virus without running a fever.