Science and Tech


Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Researchers found adults only get the flu about once every five years. Scientists analyzed how a person's immunity builds up over time as well.
Posted at 8:55 AM, Mar 04, 2015

Nausea, coughing, runny nose, fever ... probz the flu, right? (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Eh. It's probably just a cold, you big baby. 

Scientists behind a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology concluded an average adult only gets the flu once every five years.

Scientists tested blood samples from 151 participants from southern China between the ages of 7 and 81 to see how often they actually got the flu. 

The researchers from Imperial College London tested the samples for antibodies for nine different influenza strains. This was to determine whether they had gotten the flu, since antibodies are only produced in response to germs like viruses.

And the wide age range they tested is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older people and young children have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu.

Researchers gathering data on both old and young is something scientists say hasn't really been done before. 

The BBC writes, "[This] should help experts better understand who is at risk of infection, and how often, as well as how far the disease spreads through communities."

Researcher Dr. Adam Kucharski said not only did they analyze how a person's immunity builds up over their lifetime, but they wanted to see how often people noticed they had the flu.  

"Symptoms could sometimes be caused by common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. Also, some people might not realize they had flu, but the infection will show up when a blood sample is subsequently tested," Kucharski said.

The study found kiddos got the flu about every other year. Adults, aged 30 and up, about twice every decade.

This was a field study in China, so it's unclear if the findings apply to other populations. However, one researcher pointed out the flu they studied included strains that spread in the U.S. 

Although, as the Daily Mail comically points out, "The study, failed to find evidence for man flu, with the frequency of infection similar for both genders." If only...

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