Birth Cohort Effects in Influenza Surveillance Data: Evidence That First Influenza Infection Affects Later Influenza-Associated Illness.


United States influenza virologic, hospitalization, and mortality surveillance data during 2000-2017 were analyzed for cohorts born between 1918 and 1989 that likely had different initial influenza virus exposures based on viruses circulating during early childhood. Relative risk/rate during H3 compared with H1 predominant seasons during prepandemic versus pandemic and later periods were calculated for each cohort.

The evolution of influenza A viruses results in birth cohorts that have different initial influenza virus exposures. Historically, A/H3 predominant seasons have been associated with more severe influenza-associated disease; however, since the 2009 pandemic, there are suggestions that some birth cohorts experience more severe illness in A/H1 predominant seasons.

During the prepandemic period, all cohorts had more influenza-associated disease during H3 predominant seasons than H1 predominant seasons. During the pandemic and later period, 4 cohorts had higher hospitalization and mortality rates during H1 predominant seasons than H3 predominant seasons.

Birth cohort differences in risk of influenza-associated disease by influenza A virus subtype can be seen in US influenza surveillance data and differ between prepandemic and pandemic and later periods. As the population ages, the amount of influenza-associated disease may be greater in future H1 predominant seasons than H3 predominant seasons.

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