Have The Flu? It's Likely Because Of When You Were Born

Posted: Nov 15 2016, 9:20am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Have the Flu? It's Likely Because of When You Were Born
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The year you were born is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not you are going to get some types of the flu, according to new studies out of Asia and the Middle East.

Researchers found that people born before 1968 were less susceptible to certain flu strains than those who were born later, likely because of earlier exposure to a similar strain.

They found that they could predict which age groups are more susceptible to different types of flu by looking into history. The study looked at over 1,400 people who had been infected with two strains of the bird flu called H5N1 and H7N9.

“In the past, we always assumed that when pandemic flu viruses emerge from animals, the human population is an immunological blank slate,” said lead study author Katelyn Gostic, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In other words, researchers assumed that everyone’s immune system would be defenseless against a new, widespread strain of the flu, she said.

Scientists have noted that other things will influence it as well, including your age. Certain flu strains will impact children and young adults while others were found in older adults.

The researchers found that the dividing line between the two age groups was 1968, the year of the so-called Hong Kong flu pandemic. This is the virus that caused massive problems and may have been responsible for one of the worst flu outbreaks of all time.

The H7N9 strain is genetically similar to the Hong Kong flu, which is known to impact older adults. They hadn't come into contact with that one. The same is conversely true, according to Live Science.

In other words, whatever flue you were exposed to first is the one that you will have more immunity to in the future.

“Our findings show clearly that this ‘childhood imprinting’ gives strong protection against severe infection or death from two major strains of” bird flu, James Lloyd-Smith, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The new research “is a real step forward for the public health community and those tasked with protecting the population from influenza outbreaks— especially viruses like avian flu that jump from animal reservoirs to humans,” said Dr. Michael Grosso, medical director at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital.

For more information about the flu this year, check out our 2016 flu guide.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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