Exposure to one of two virus strains — H1N1 or H3N2 — may affect a person’s ability to fight the flu later in life. (Getty Images)

Exposure to one of two virus strains — H1N1 or H3N2 — may affect a person’s ability to fight the flu later in life. (Getty Images)

Virus strains from childhood affect your ability to fight flu

A strain imprints itself on a person’s immunity and determines their lifelong response to the flu.

  • By The Canadian Press
  • Saturday, February 1, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

Researchers at two Canadian universities say the first type of influenza virus you are exposed to in early childhood dictates your ability to fight the flu for the rest of your life.

They say results of a study suggest exposure to one of the two flu strains that circulates every year — H1N1 or H3N2 — imprints itself on a person’s immunity and disproportionately affects their lifelong response to the flu.

The researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Montreal say their findings could allow public health officials to assess who might be at greater risk in any given year, based on their age and the type of viruses that were dominant when they were born.

Their study is published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and based on data from the 2018-19 flu season, which was highly unusual because both strains of influenza A dominated at different times.

Matthew Miller, a co-author on the study and an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease and the McMaster Immunology Research Centre, said your prior immunity to viruses like flu could impact your risk of becoming ill during subsequent epidemics and pandemics.

“Understanding how their prior immunity either leaves them protected or susceptible is really important for helping us to identify the populations who are most at risk during seasonal epidemics and new outbreaks,” he said in a release.

Researchers say a natural experiment occurred last winter in Canada when the dominant H1N1 strain was progressively replaced by H3N2, which accounted for 80 to 90% of flu by March 2019, allowing them to observe the age-specific incidence of the illness in a season.

“As H3N2 replaced H1N1, the drop in incidence for the 40 to 49 years’ age group noted during the previous 2017-18 season reappeared, while the incidence for older individuals rose markedly with age,” according to the study.

The same researchers showed in a study published last year that the elderly in Quebec had a relatively low number of cases of influenza during recent seasons dominated by H1N1, mostly likely because they’d gained protection from repeated early-life exposure to that subtype of viruses that circulated from 1918 to 1956.

The H1N1 strain of influenza A was responsible for the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which killed millions worldwide. An H1N1 subtype caused the swine flu in 2009 but the connection between the two outbreaks is not clear. The so-called Asian flu of 1957 occurred when H2N2 was dominant, before H3N2 brought along a wave of sickness in 1968.

Talk to us

More in Life

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org.
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.