The current wave of cold-cough-fever might be more than the usual “seasonal viral.” Now that the Central government has confirmed the first two H3N2 fatalities, the caution in masking up is back. A sub-type of the Influenza A virus, the first victim was an 82-year-old man in Karnataka’s Hasan. Hire Gowda was admitted to hospital on February 24 and died on March 1, according to officials. He was reportedly a diabetic and suffered from hypertension.
The Haryana patient was a 56-year-old lung cancer patient who had tested positive for H3N2 in January. He died on Wednesday at his home in Jind, according to reports.
India currently has 90 confirmed cases of the H3N2 virus.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has, meanwhile, urged doctors to not prescribe antibiotics to patients before confirming whether the infection is bacterial, as this can build up a resistance. Most current cases of fever, cough, sore throat, and body ache are cases of influenza, for which antibiotics are not needed.
According to WHO, seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. There are four types of seasonal influenza viruses, types A, B, C and D. Influenza A and B viruses circulate and cause seasonal epidemics of disease. Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes according to the combinations of the hemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA), the proteins on the surface of the virus.
H3 N2 virus can be diagnosed through laboratory testing. The sample for laboratory testing of H3N2 is similar to the sample collected for COVID-19 testing that is the nasal swab and pharyngeal swab.
What is H3N2 virus?
It is an influenza virus that causes respiratory infection. The virus can also infect birds and mammals. In bird and other animals, it has mutated into many strains.
H3N2 is a subtype of Influenza A virus, which is an important cause of human influenza, according to Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and World health Organization (WHO).
What are the symptoms?
According to WHO, avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza infections in humans may cause disease ranging from mild upper respiratory infection (fever and cough) to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock and even death. Some of the common symptoms of H3N2 virus are:
- Throat ache/sore throat
- An ache in muscles and body
- In some cases, diarrhoea
- Sneezing and runny nose
If a person experiences difficulty breathing, pain or discomfort in chest, continuous fever and pain in throat while gulping down the food, it becomes important to see a doctor.
How does the virus spread?
The extremely contagious H3N2 influenza can be transmitted from one person to another through droplets released when coughing, sneezing, or talking by an infected individual. It can also spread if someone touches their mouth or nose after contacting a surface that has the virus on it. Pregnant women, young children, elderly adults, and persons with underlying medical issues are at a higher risk of flu-related complications.
Precautions to be taken?
Since the virus attacks the respiratory tract, it is very important to:
- Keep checking the oxygen level continuously with the help of Pulse Oximeter
- If the oxygen saturation level is less than 95 per cent, a visit to the doctor is mandatory.
- If the oxygen saturation level is less than 90 per cent, then intensive care may be required.
- Experts caution against self-medication in such cases
What are the treatment options?
Taking proper rest, drinking lots of fluids and using over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever are all part of the H3N2 influenza treatment regimen. If a patient has severe symptoms or is at a high risk of problems, a doctor may also recommend antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir and zanamivir.
WHO further says that in suspected and confirmed cases, neuraminidase inhibitors should be prescribed as soon as possible (ideally, within 48 hours following symptom onset) to maximize therapeutic benefits.
Dos and Don’ts
The virus can spread rapidly among humans from infected people. So, experts say it is very important to follow some protocols:
- Regularly wash your hands with water and soap
- Wear face masks and avoid crowded areas
- Avoid touching your nose and mouth
- Cover your nose and mouth properly while coughing and sneezing
- Stay hydrated and consume plenty of fluids
- In case of fever and bodyache, take paracetamol
- Spitting in public areas
- Using contact-based greetings such as shaking hands
- Self-medicating and taking antibiotics or any other medications without consulting a doctor
- Eating while seated next to other people