The age distribution of influenza A(H5N1) cases reported during 2006–2013 varied substantially between countries. As well as underlying demographic profiles, it is possible that cross-immunity contributed to the age distribution of reported cases: seasonal influenza A(H1N1) and avian influenza A(H5N1) share the same neuraminidase subtype, N1. Using a mechanistic model, we measured the extent to which population age distribution and heterosubtypic cross-immunity could explain the observed age patterns in Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam. Our results support experimental evidence that prior infection with H1N1 confers partial cross-immunity to H5N1, and suggest that more than 50% of spillover events did not lead to reported cases of infection as a result. We also identified age groups that have additional risk factors for influenza A(H5N1) not captured by demography or infection history.
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