H1N1: Elderly more immune, says study

Once the vaccine for H1N1 virus is available, health workers, infants, young people and people with underlying medical conditions should get priority over the elderly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

This recommendation is based on findings of a study published in the journal Nature, which said that antibodies against some seasonal flu strains from prior years may be active against the new H1N1 virus circulating the globe.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that one-third of senior citizens had some immunity to swine flu. These findings, which came out in May, were backed by another study released on July 13, which is to be published in the same journal. The study said that those alive during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak have the most protection against the H1N1 virus. The findings suggested an explanation for why swine flu appears to infect the young more often than the elderly, who are normally more susceptible to seasonal flu .

According to the WHO recommendation, "All countries should immunize their health-care workers as a first priority to protect the essential health infrastructure. As vaccines available initially will not be sufficient, a step-wise approach to vaccinate particular groups may be considered."

It said the SAGE (Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization) suggested the following groups be considered for vaccination: pregnant women; those aged above six months with chronic medical conditions; healthy young adults; healthy children; healthy adults of 50 to 64 years of age; and healthy adults of 65 years of age and above.

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