Listen up, your birth year might have a hand in your risk level for the flu
It’s that time again: Flu season. Don’t cry, we’ll get through it. Especially because new research is suggesting that your flu risk might coincide to the year you were born.
Getting your flu shot is still worth it, though!! And you should!! But it’s undoubtedly interesting that your birth year influences flu risk – at least, it might. According to a new study published in Science, your first flu exposure protects you. That first strain you come across as a child imprints on you. Its protection could keep you up safe by reducing your risk of a future severe infection by a whopping 75%.
“From our first childhood experience of being infected with influenza A, our body remembers a protective immune response to employ … and that’s kind of a surprise,” says Michael Worobey co-author of the study and head of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the University of Arizona.
“But as far as the data tell us, there is something kind of magical about the first time you have an influenza A response. It does seem to lock you into this imprinted immunity that you can benefit from,” Worobey reveals.
The researchers analyzed the types of flu viruses with various outbreaks. They also factored in the data of patients affected by the outbreaks. They found a clear a shockingly clear pattern suggesting that your birth year influences flu risk.
However, imprinting patterns don’t prevent infection. They influence the severity of the infection, but there’s a lot more to learn. Study co-author and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, James Lloyd-Smith, explains why that distinction is important.
“It’s possible people do get infected, but they don’t get too sick. You could say, well, that doesn’t matter too much, because what we care about are people getting really sick and dying. But when you begin to think about the possibility for pandemics, then it does matter whether there’s a bunch of people who actually do get infected, because they might able to transmit it.”
We hope to learn more about whether birth year influences flu risk. Either way, flu season is upon us. We encourage you to get that flu shot regardless, and protect others as well as yourself. We wish you health, and a quick end to flu season!