What Are The Different Types of Flu?

There are a few different types of flu, classified by symptoms and abilities. There are three main types: A, B, and C.

Type A can infect animals and humans, but it affects humans more often than animals. Of all animals, birds are often hosts for Type A flu. It should be noted that Type A is always changing. It most commonly responsible for “flu season”, when many people get infected with the flu. The most common variation of Type A flu virus is A2, which generally spreads when someone is already infected. 

Unlike Type A, Type B flu is unable to infect any other species besides humans. Type B usually causes less severe symptoms than Type A, but on rare occasions, Type B is extremely harmful to one’s health. While Type A has different subtypes of the flu, Type B does not have subtypes. It also is not the usual suspect during flu season.

The last type of flu, Type C, is also found only in humans. Type C is less severe than both A and B and, oftentimes, people do not get very sick from Type C flu viruses. Type C does is also not responsible for flu season epidemics.

Regardless of the type of strain or the different type of flu, flu viruses mutate and adapt over time to replace older versions of itself. This ability to evolve is the reason why the flu shot changes every year.

Beyond Types A, B, and C, there is another type of flu that scares the masses: avian flu. Avian flu comes from birds that are infected by Type A flu viruses. The three main subtypes of avian flu are H9, H7, and H5. You might remember the hysteria raised over a particular strain, H5N1, when it was thought that the avian flu was able to pass from birds to poultry to people. In most cases, the avian flu is not dangerous to humans. Most cases of avian flu are in Asia, where many people come in close contact with farm animals and farm birds that are infected. In the United States, cases are few and far between.

*Reviewed and approved by Dr. Rob Lapporte

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