Counterintuitive Advice for Flu Season

The study, published Dec. 12 in the peer-reviewed BMC Medicine, looks at all five influenza pandemics of the past 100 years. It finds a variable but often large number of elderly individuals were immune to influenza because their bodies had been infected with a similar virus in the past. In other words, the viruses were recycled.

Reichert says that during the 2009 influenza pandemic, most people over age 62 were immune because the flu virus closely resembled viruses they’d been exposed to before 1947. In 1969, people over age 78 had immunity, the study found. In 1918, it was those over age 45-55 who were best protected.

In Reichert’s view, the “immunity of past experience” has important implications. First, he says in pandemic seasons, flu shots and other resources should be diverted to younger people who aren’t naturally protected and not wasted on the elderly, many of whom will already be immune. Second, he says American businesses should give serious thought to cultivating a cadre of retired, elderly to bring into the workforce in the event of a severe flu pandemic. “If your factory risks being down for a year because so many workers are stricken, the immune elderly could be a tremendous resource,” says Reichert. “Any employer who motivated his retirees could bring them in and only a few would get sick.” He concludes that competitors who prepared this way would have a huge advantage over those who don’t.

Not being a physician, I can't vouch for the validity of this advice, but it is worth discussing with your physician. Full article here.

Note: I'll have more on disease risk on the blog in the next couple of days.

Hat tip: Instapundit


  1. Hmmm... I'm not sure what is counterintuitive about this? During the swine flu event back in 2009, the elderly were specifically not included in the initial vaccine plan because of their previous exposure.

    There really is no need to discuss anything with your physician now since there is no pandemic at this time. The annual flu shots DEFINITELY apply to seniors since they are at a high risk.


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