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Just having been alive for a while could protect you from getting the novel swine flu circling the planet.
In 1977, a type of H1N1 virus, commonly known as the “Russian flu,” spread across the world, infecting people under 25 at much higher rates than their elders, who had been exposed to similar viruses in the ’40s and ’50s. In the first documented American outbreak, 70 percent of the students fell ill at a high school in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while their teachers proved immune. As the Air Force Academy’s chief medical officer said in 1978, “It’s one of the advantages of being middle-aged.”
Now, Leonard Mermel, an infectious disease specialist at Rhode Island Hospital, suggests the current flu virus could be similar enough to that ’70s strain that older people could again find themselves immune to a new virus.
“It might be that the H1N1 circulating now (swine-origin influenza virus) has enough antigenic similarity to related H1N1 influenza strains of the past to protect older individuals exposed to them previously,” Mermel wrote in a letter to the journal The Lancet.