Scientists Find That Our Bodies Remember The Flu—But It Is Not All Good News

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source: jber.jb.mil

With nearly every state reporting an elevated activity in the flu,  it seems that the illness is continuing its spread across the US. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported on Friday that the flu is widespread, having been confirmed in 30 states.  Most of those states include the West Coast, those along the southern border, and the Mid-Atlantic states.

So far this season, the CDC has estimated at least 3.7 million cases of the flu.  Of those cases, 32,000 resulted in hospitalization.  An estimated nearly 2,000 people have died from the flu this season, with 19 of them being children.

There are currently four antiviral medications on the mark that purport to tackle the flue, with the most popular being Tamiflu and Xofluza.  So far, all four versions have shown as 99% effective against the flu viruses that were tested.

The majority of those suffering from the flu have been found to have been infected with the B/Victoria strain.  This strain is one that is notorious for not rearing its ugly head until nearing the end of the flu season.

Although anyone can be affected by these types of viruses, they have proven to attack children and young adults more often.

As a rule, the B strains are less likely to cause severe infections, resulting in complications, than the A strains are known to do.  However, recent studies show that the A strains seem to be increasing in numbers. 

Research conducted sheds some new light on just why some age groups are affected more severely by the flu strains than others.  It seems it has to do with the type of strain that many of us caught and struggled through as children.

An analysis of health records of various flu cases showed that our body "remembers" which strain of the virus we first contracted when younger, and as a result, our immune system builds a lasting defense against that strain for life.  Scientists term the phenomenon as "immunological imprinting."

The problem lies in that, when it comes to our systems fighting the flu, our body only knows how to defend against that one particular strain of the virus.  As a result, an individual's immune system is not as strong when attempting to protect against another strain.

Author of the study, Michael Worobey, put it all in a nutshell when he said:  "In other words, if you were a child and had your first bout of flu in 1955 when the H1N1 but not H3N2 virus was circulating, an infection with H3N2 was much more likely to land you in the hospital than an infection with H1N1 last year when both strains were circulating,"

Do you think this is going to be a back season for the flu this year?