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Can't Get the Swine Flu Vaccine?

You may already have some immunity - We may not have immunity from war and politics, but at least researchers have found that previous influenza infections may provide at least some level of immunity to the H1N1 Swine Flu.

As the number of deaths related to the pandemic H1N1 virus, commonly known as Swine Flu, continues to rise, researchers have been scrambling to decipher its inner workings and explain why the incidence is lower than expected in older adults.

Vaccine expert Alessandro Sette says, "The question we asked was, 'Is the swine flu more like the seasonal flu or like a totally new strain of influenza where there would be no immunity?' What we have found is that the swine flu has similarities to the seasonal flu, which appear to provide some level of pre-existing immunity. This suggests that it could make the disease less severe in the general population than originally feared."

Researcher Bjoern Peters says, "We looked at the molecular markers for seasonal influenza viruses dating back 20 years and compared them with the molecular markers of the H1N1 influenza virus. We found that the immune system's T cells can recognize a significant percent of the markers in swine flu." (T cells are infection-fighting white blood cells in the body's immune system). "Nobody knows what level of immunity is sufficient for protection. We do know that a T cell response is not enough to prevent being infected by the virus. But, if infected, our data suggests that T cells in those who have previously been exposed to influenza may make the infection less severe."

CDC officials have said up to 40% of the U.S. population may eventually be infected by the H1N1 virus. In a normal flu season, influenza infects as much as 20% of the U.S. population, causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and kills about 36,000 people, meaning that TWICE that many people may be affected by Swine Flu.

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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