Birth Year May be Linked to Flu Risk
A recent report on influenza pandemics found that people born before 1968 are more susceptible to a different strain of the virus than people born after that year, who are more at risk for different strains of the flu.
Over the past three years scientists from UCLA and the University of Arizona have noticed a trend in two different strains of flu: H5N1 and H7N9. Older adults were more likely to be infected by H7N9, while children and young adults were more at risk for H5N1.
“Our findings show clearly that this ‘childhood imprinting’ gives strong protection against severe infection or death from two major strains of avian influenza,” said James Lloyd-Smith, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s senior author. “These results will help us quantify the risk of particular emerging influenza viruses sparking a major outbreak.”
“Childhood imprinting” implies that a person’s first case of the flu may set their immune system for life, which plays into different flu strains discovered in different generations, researchers explain.
The findings about the human immune system and the different strains of influenza could help scientists better predict risk of a killer flu pandemic and create better vaccinations.
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