Adults Catch Flu Less Often Than Children

4/1/2015 11:29:23 AM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Sick, and think you’ve got the flu? Maybe not. A new study has found that while children catch flu once every two years on average, the rate goes down significantly in adults – the average adult only gets it once every five years.

What can feel like the flu often turns out to be common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. “For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think. In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people,” says Steven Riley, senior author of the study, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London. “The exact frequency of infection will vary depending on background levels of flu and vaccination,” he added

For the study researchers from the UK, the United States and China analysed blood samples from volunteers in Southern China. By looking for virus-specific antibodies in the volunteers’ blood samples, the researchers could tell how often each person had encountered the flu. They focused on antibodies to nine known influenza strains that circulated between 1968 and 2009.

By better understanding the collective immune response to flu viruses, the researchers hope to learn more about how immunity in a population can affect the evolution of flu viruses — which can hopefully lead to stronger immunisations against new strains.

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