Early infections of influenza A can help predict how the virus will affect people across different ages in the future and could impact the effectiveness of flu vaccines, says a new study published today in eLife.
The findings may help improve estimates of both the age-specific risk of acquiring seasonal influenza infections and vaccine effectiveness in similarly vaccinated populations.
Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that occur across the world. It causes approximately 100,000-600,000 hospitalisations and 5,000-27,000 deaths per year in the US alone. There are three types of seasonal influenza viruses in humans: A, B and C, although C is much less common. Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes, with the A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) subtypes currently circulating in humans. A(H1N1) is also written as A(H1N1)pdm09 as it caused the 2009 pandemic and replaced the A(H1N1) virus which had circulated before that year.
The rapid evolution of seasonal influenza that allows it to escape preexisting immunity adds to the relatively high incidence of infections, including in previously infected older children and adults. But how susceptibility arises and changes over time in human populations has been difficult to quantify.