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Seasonal flu may protect children

Children infected with seasonal flu may be better protected against more serious, pandemic strains of the illness, a report has claimed.

Dutch doctors from the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, argue that vaccinating children between the age of six months and five years against the seasonal flu strain may not be the best move.

Research by the three doctors suggested that influenza A virus infection could promote immunity against other strains. Their findings are published in an article published online by The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Flu jabs for healthy children are recommended in the US and some European countries, but not currently in the UK.

"This so-called heterosubtypic immunity does not provide full protection, but can limit virus replication and reduce morbidity (illness) and mortality of the host," the doctors wrote.

One new sub-strain of influenza A is the H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu. Another is avian or bird flu which, although very rare in humans, can be deadly.

The experts added: "Preventing infection with seasonal influenza viruses by vaccination might prevent the induction of heterosubtypic immunity to pandemic strains, which might be a disadvantage to immunologically naive people, such as infants."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

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