Why this flu season is especially bad for baby boomers

A significant amount of Americans between ages 50 and 64 have been hospitalized for the flu this season, reports Business Insider.

Infants usually develop more severe flu cases than adults since their immune systems have not been exposed to prior strains. However, "baby boomers have higher rates [of hospitalization] than their grandchildren right now," CDC flu director Dan Jernigan, MD, MPH, told reporters Friday, according to Business Insider.

Scientists believe this year's flu, dominated by the H3N2 strain, has had an outsized effect on baby boomers due to a process called "imprinting." When a person is first exposed to a flu virus, whether through a vaccine or catching the illness, the immune system teaches itself how to defend against the virus type.

Baby boomers, born before the H3N2 strain even existed, were likely imprinted with an H2 flu strain, not H3, Matthew Miller, PhD, who studies the flu at McMaster University in Canada, told Business Insider. Therefore, their bodies may not know how to fend off the H3N2 strain as well as younger people imprinted with this virus type.

The U.S. has experienced elevated flu levels for nine consecutive weeks as of Jan. 20, with flu activity hitting the highest level since 2009's flu pandemic.

More articles on infection control:

Beware the 'cesspool of funky flu': ER nurse's rant on flu prevention goes viral
Hospital toilet flushing during patient care can lead to spread of pathogen
CDC to reduce global outbreak prevention efforts by 80%: 4 things to know

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