Following its reintroduction in 1978 influenza A H1N1 spread widely in the child population. By the autumn of 1979, 75% of 11-year olds entering a boys' boarding school had detectable antibody. The protective effect of previous experience could be assessed during two outbreaks in the school. In the first outbreak in 1979, 90% of those known to have been infected in the previous year were protected against reinfection. In 1983 after strains of the H1N1 subtype had undergone antigenic drift a large outbreak occurred. It was estimated that past infection conferred protection against clinical influenza in 55%. Where past infection resulted in the presence of antibody which reacted with the outbreak strain the attack rate was further reduced. A large number of sub-clinical infections was detected in all groups.
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