PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When were the last two times you had the flu?

We asked some Pittsburghers…

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“December I had it a week straight, I was sick as a dog. And before that, it was summer time. Like August.”

“For me, January of this year, and I think January of last year as well.”

“I haven’t had the flu since I was like 15.”

“The last two times I had the flu was probably about a year ago. I got it three times.”

“I can’t recall the last time I had the flu.”

Generally, the older you are, the less often it happens.

Researchers in London looked at blood samples and were able to identify which flu strains people had been infected with over the past 40 years, and what kind of immune response they mounted.

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With mathematical models, they were able to figure out children catch the flu every other year, but once you turn 30 — only twice a decade.

It’s a pattern one local doctor — who treats adults and kids — sees all the time.

“I see that children tend to be sick more often than the adults,” says Allegheny Health Network’s Dr. Jennifer Priess. “If there’s more than one person in the family that gets sick, it’s often the first person who is the sickest.”

The thought is that flu strains you encounter early in life boost the immune response against strains you come across later, moreso than more recent strains.

“There are obviously strains that are repeating themselves,” she said. “They just go away and come back later. The immune system has a memory.”

This research could help with understanding and predicting the way flu viruses change year to year.

“It will be very interesting to find out what they can learn from the trends of immunity and vaccines and maybe what it will predict for the future,” says Dr. Priess.

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Dr. Maria Simbra