Influenza viruses are constantly changing. They can change in two different ways.

One way they change is called “antigenic drift.” These are small changes in the genes of influenza viruses that happen continually over time as the virus replicates. These small genetic changes usually produce viruses that are pretty closely related to one another, which can be illustrated by their location close together on a phylogenetic tree. Viruses that are closely related to each other usually share the same antigenic properties and an immune system exposed to an similar virus will usually recognize it and respond. (This is sometimes called cross-protection.)

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