Sick, got the flu? Well, maybe what you think is the flu really isn’t the flu… a new study has found that while children catch a flu once every two years on average, the rate goes down significantly in adults – the average adult only gets it once every 5 years.

Image via NY Post.

The flu is any infectious disease caused by the influenza virus. Common symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and feeling tired, with the cough usually lasting a long time. The flu shouldn’t be mistaken for the common cold though – while it may have similar (typically milder) symptoms, the common cold is not caused by the influenza.

Many people think they got a flu, but as this new study found, that’s most likely not the case. Dr. Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine concluded that most of the time, symptoms attributed by patients to the flu are actually just the common cold.

Dr Adam Kucharski said:

‘There’s a lot of debate in the field as to how often people get flu, as opposed to flu-like illness caused by something else. These symptoms can sometimes be caused by common cold viruses.’

He and his team analyzed blood samples from 151 volunteers from China between the age of seven and 81 and looked at all strains of influenza. It’s the first time this type of study was done (on influenza) and may help us understand how the infectious disease spreads.

They found that we are most vulnerable to flu in our early years, but as we start to grow, we develop antibodies to fight flu viruses by targeting proteins on the virus surface.

Co-researcher Dr Steven Riley said people often simply misuse the word ‘flu’. He said:

‘People don’t mean flu when they say “flu”. What they mean is that they have a bad respiratory illness and there are quite a few of these around.’

You can read the entire article for free, on PLoS.

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