Well, it may be time to think up a new excuse for bailing on work. Especially if your boss keeps up with health studies. How many times do we dial up the office and say we have the flu to settle in for some Netflix?

For those over 30, it turns out even if we are sick, it’s likely a different bug. Researchers found that adults contract the flu virus around twice every ten years. While this seriously limits what excuses we can use, the findings are important to the medical community.

The research will deepen understanding of the flu, how it spreads and identifying the at-risk population. It will also aid in the production of more effective vaccines. In light of this year’s flu season, that is desperately needed.

“For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think. In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people,” said Steven Riley of Imperial College London, who worked on the research.

Researchers analyzed blood samples from volunteers in Southern China. Using antibody levels, they compared the data against nine flu strains that circulated from 1968 to 2009.

Children were most at risk, contracting the virus every other year on average. The rate of infection dropped with age.

The issue with everyone saying they have the flu is the similarities between viruses. Flu-like illness can be caused by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. You’re still hating life when you have the virus, but it’s not the flu.

“What we’ve done in this study is to analyze how a person’s immunity builds up over a lifetime of flu infections,” said Adam Kucharski, who worked on the study at Imperial before moving to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“This … helps us understand the susceptibility of the population as a whole and how easy it is for new seasonal strains to spread through the population.”

Along with estimating the frequency, researchers built a model of how a person’s immunity to the flu can change over a lifetime as we encounter various strains.

So, while you may not have the flu every year, other viruses mimic the symptoms and can have you down for a couple days. Get to your local primary care doctor for a flu test, or at least medications to treat the symptoms of the virus you do have. Then go ahead and binge watch Netflix. It’s therapeutic.


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