General Question

pleiades's avatar

In a human lifetime about how many times will one catch the flu?

Asked by pleiades (6538 points ) January 15th, 2014

as asked and please post links, sources etc

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6 Answers

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funkdaddy's avatar

I don’t think a hard number would be credible, it’s going to vary a lot from person to person (profession, travel, vaccination, etc.) and there’s no reliable reporting.

Buuuut…. for the US

The CDC says

In the United States, each year on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.

So if that were somehow equally distributed and averaged out, you could say you’d get the flu every 10 years or so.

And wikipedia says the average life expectancy in the US is 79 years.

So, spread the word far and wide, it’s a statistically proven fact you will get precisely 7.9 flus in your lifetime.

or your money back

JLeslie's avatar

I think @funkydaddy’s statistcal analysis sounds good to me. It fits my personal scenerio pretty well. I’ve had the flu twice that I know of, possibly there was one more time when I was an infant and wouldn’t be aware, but I don’t think so. My mom has never mentioned it. I am 46 years old. My husband has had the flu 3 times since we have been married. He is the same age, we have been married 20 years. 2 of the flus were in the
last 5 years. I don’t know how often he had it as a child, but he definitely was not a “sickly” child. Between the two of us we kind of average out to your statistical likelihood. Neither of my parents have had the flu in the last 30 years. My mom doesn’t get the vaccine, my dad does. My FIL had the flu once since I have known him the last 23 years, my MIL has not had it.

I tried to google how many flu strains there are, and couldn’t find a total number. Plus, the flu mutates and we see new strains emerge. I’m pretty sure once we catch and get sick from a particular strain we are now immune to it, but there are so many strains we get the flu, or can get the flu, over and over again. It doesn’t really matter how many times in a lifetime we might get the flu I don’t think. What matters more is that each year we have a chance of getting the flu, some years the flu travels in higher numbers than others. Where you can affect your statistical probablity of getting it. You can watch the flu map to know the hardest hit ares.

pleiades's avatar

@JLeslie Did he have h1n1?

JLeslie's avatar

@pleiades My husband? I would have no idea. We never go to the doctor for the flu. Just lotsa fever reducing measures, maybe a little cough medicine if there is a bad cough, and sleep all day for 4 days. His last flu was the year before the H1N1 scare if I remember correctly, so it could have been if he had it before the virus really caught on, but unlikely. Possibly it was two years before, these things are a blur for me. The one before that I call the Asian flu. We came back from Tokyo and a day later – boom – bad flu. The third one I spoke of, I gave it to him our first year of marriage. That was 20 years ago.

I had one friend that had H1N1 confirmed when the scare first happened and her daughter was all over facebook saying pray for my mom. It was ridiculous. She had the flu, her case was an average fou case, she wasn’t dying, although the flu is for sure incompacitating, but the hype about the virus had her and her family practically digging her grave. There is a lot of cases of H1N1 this year, but this still has not been a terribly bad flu year, there have been worse for sure in the US. I do know a lot of people this year who have had the flu though. More have had that three week lasting cough, congestion, mess though.

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