The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has stated that anyone under the age of 50 has no natural immunity to the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus – a H1N1 viral virgin. But, recent evidence released this week states that researchers have discovered that people who have had repeated flu infections, or annual flu vaccines may have some protection against the new H1N1 influenza. So how do you tell if you are a viral virgin or not?
Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology have discovered that H1N1 has some similarities to the seasonal flu, which appears to lend some level of immunity. “The question we asked was, “Is the swine flu more like the seasonal flu or like a totally new strain of influenza where there would be no immunity?” said Alessandro Sette, Ph.D., director of the La Jolla Institute’s Center for Infectious Disease. “What we have found is that the swine flu has similarities to the seasonal flu, which appear to provide some level of pre-existing immunity. This suggests that it could make the disease less severe in the general population than originally feared.”
This may partially explain why some people have a less severe case of the H1N1 influenza than others. This may also explain why children who have naive immune systems are more susceptible to contracting H1N1 simply because they have not been exposed to enough influenza viruses.
All influenza A virus strains are categorized according to two proteins found on the surface of the virus. All influenza A viruses contain the protein hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) and they differ from strain to strain. Flu strains are assigned an H number and N number; hence this strain variety is called 2009 H1N1.
The Influenza virus is a very mutation-prone virus and changes and drifts as it circulates the globe. Each year researchers try to predict which 3 strains are the most predominate. After these strains are identified vaccines are formulated to combat the disease. This is why new flu vaccines must be formulated each year.
So what now? How do I know if I have had enough influenza exposure to make my immune system resilient against H1N1? You don’. The best way to protect you and your loved ones is to get vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu as soon as possible. The seasonal flu vaccine will protect you against the 3 seasonal viruses that researchers predict will be most common for this year’s flu season. The 2009 H1N1 vaccine will protect you against this new (or so called new) strain of H1N1 influenza. Don’ question your viral virginity just get protected.
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