In 1976, an epidemic caused by infections with an influenza virus antigenically similar to A/Victoria/75 (H3N2) occurred in Houston, Texas. During this outbreak, 37 families (155 members) enrolled in the Houston Family Study were under observation. The families lived throughout the metropolitan area (Houston, Texas), and were representative of low income groups. The overall frequency of infection in family members was 27·7%. The frequency of infection was the highest for infants under one year of age and for their older siblings, 14 (37·8%) of 37 and 17 (33·3%) of 51, respectively. Eighteen (48·6%) of the 37 families had at least one infected member. Twelve of the 18 ‘infected’ families had school aged children, whereas only three of the 19 ‘non-infected’ families had school aged children (P < 0·01). These infected families were also larger and had increased household density (persons/rooms). The levels of pre-existing HI antibodies to A/Victoria/75 and A/Port Chalmers/73 were inversely related to frequencies of infection and illness associated with A/Victoria/75 virus. Three children required hospitalization as direct consequence of their infection with this H3N2 influenza virus. Antibody response to infection was related to previous experience with antigenically-related influenza A (H3N2) viruses according to Francis', ‘doctrine of original antigenic sin.’
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