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Will H3N2 virus influenza turn into the next Covid pandemic? Here is what experts say

Amidst rising cases of the H3N2 influenza virus, people are wondering if it will become the next COVID.

Edited By: India TV Health Desk New Delhi Published on: March 14, 2023 9:33 IST
Is H3N2 fatal like Covid?
Image Source : FREEPIK Is H3N2 fatal like Covid?

The latest H3N2 virus is affecting an increasing number of people every day in India, causing concern among the public. However, doctors are taking steps to reassure the public by disseminating the information through various channels. Dr. Dhiren Gupta from Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi explained that the sudden spike in cases is due to the lack of exposure to the influenza virus in children during the Covid-induced lockdowns in the past two years. Additionally, the virus is generally not life-threatening under normal circumstances.

According to Dr. SK Chhabra, HOD-Pulmonary, Primus Hospital, New Delhi, there is no connection between COVID-19 and influenza, even though both are respiratory infections and spread similarly. Mild COVID-19 symptoms are similar to mild influenza symptoms, except that influenza is more likely to cause a cold, body aches, and headaches. There is no evidence to suggest that those who have had COVID-19 are at a higher risk of contracting influenza since they are separate and independent infections, and their occurrence is not related.

To draw a comparison, COVID-19 and H3N2 (a type of influenza) are similar in terms of being respiratory infections and spread through similar modes of transmission. They also share similar symptoms, such as fever, cough, and body aches. However, there is no evidence to suggest that having had COVID-19 puts someone at a higher risk of contracting H3N2 or that the occurrence of the two is linked in any way.

A total of 3038 confirmed cases of various influenza subtypes, including H3N2 were reported tillMarch 9, 2023. There were two deaths due to the H3N2 virus, one in Haryana and Karnataka each.  As the number of confirmed cases of influenza, including H3N2, continues to rise in the country, people are becoming increasingly concerned about the virus. The recent spread of the virus has led to an increase in hospitalizations.

Experts have identified H3N2 as an influenza virus that primarily circulates among pigs but can also infect humans. However, they have also noted that the seasonal flu, which typically appears in India between January and March and after the monsoon season, will likely subside after March. To avoid contracting the virus, the government has advised people to adhere to Covid protocols and maintain good hygiene practices.

The H3N2 subtype has been found to be the most common strain of influenza in India, causing a greater number of hospitalizations than other subtypes such as Influenza A (H1N1pdm09) and Influenza B (Victoria). The government has reported that a majority of patients with H3N2 exhibited fever and cough symptoms, with roughly 16% wheezing 27% experiencing breathlessness, 16% having pneumonia, and 6% with seizures. Additionally, approximately 10% of patients required oxygen support, and 7% required intensive care unit (ICU) care.

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