If the regular flu virus wasn’t bad enough, it also has a few relatives to keep an eye on. Actually, there are three main types of the influenza virus: Type A, Type B and Type C. Between Types A and B, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized annually in the United States. Type C, meanwhile, comprises a much less virulent strain of the virus. And even though it’s not as severe as the other two types, it can do some damage.
By looking at the three types of flu virus from a scientific perspective, it’s possible to gain crucial insight into what make each type of virus unique – and also what we can do to avoid them altogether.
The Flu Strain, Explained by Science
- Type A virus – This is the most common flu virus, and is categorized by a pair of sub-strains, the H1N1 virus and the H3N2 virus. The “H” and “N” in H1N1 and H3N2 stand for haemagglutinin and neuraminidase, types of proteins that help the virus spread. Yet even among different subsets of the flu virus, different strains can develop with new characteristics. For example, the 2009 flu season witnessed a brand-new H1N1 virus that was responsible for the influenza pandemic, the largest in four decades. The H1N1 virus also has species-specific strains, including the flu that is endemic to birds and pigs (called “avian” and “swine” flu, respectively).
- Type B virus – While similar to the Type A flu virus in some aspects, here’s what separates Type B from A: it only affects humans and seals. Because it is relatively limited in scope compared to the Type A virus, there have been very few Type B pandemics in history.
- Type C virus – Type C is considered the “oddball” of the main flu viruses. In fact, its unorthodox architecture makes it the one strain of flu virus not covered by annual flu vaccines. Two other science-related facts make a C virus vaccine unnecessary. For one, it has minimal impact on human health. The other reason has to do with antigenic shift, which occurs when two or more virus stains (or strains of at least two viruses) combine to form a new type of sub-strain. Lucky for us, the Type C flu virus cannot produce antigenic shift.
Urgent Care Extra’s Flu Awareness Campaign – Helping Battle the Flu, One Vaccine at a Time
That’s some of the science behind different types of the flu strain. For a solution, try a flu vaccine. Urgent Care Extra offers affordable flu shots as part of our 2015-2016 Flu Awareness Campaign. The current flu season began in October and is expected to last through May. If you haven’t already received a flu vaccine, now is a great time to get one. Stop by any Urgent Care Extra walk-in medical clinic for a flu shot. At just $25, our flu shots are available with no appointment necessary.
For more information about the flu, don’t forget to visit our Flu Shot Facts page, where you can also download a free Urgent Care Extra flu shot facts whitepaper.
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