H3N2 Influenza ‘Deaths’ in India: The Disease, Its Symptoms Explained in 5 Points


Two deaths have been registered in India due to the H3N2 influenza, as per a Moneycontrol report, which quoted government sources as saying that Karnataka had seen one death and Haryana the second. Read more on this here

Karnataka Health Minister Dr. K. Sudhakar had said on Monday that 26 persons have tested positive for the H3N2 variant in the state, and among these two cases are reported from Bengaluru. He added that children below the age of 15 years face more danger from the H3N2 variant and that the variant also infects persons above the age of 60 years.

Addressing a press conference at the Vidhana Soudha after holding a high-level meeting over the rising Covid cases and H3N2 variant, Sudhakar advised that pregnant women also need to be careful. Sudhakar also said that a total of 60 cases of Adenovirus, which causes acute respiratory infections (ARI), were found in Karnataka. “For six months, the staff of the Health department have not been wearing masks. Right from this day, the staff who work in hospitals and health care centres must wear masks,” he said.

The country has seen an unexpected increase in Covid and H3N2 cases, which has experts concerned. Despite the fact that reported cases remain quite low, India has seen a 63% increase in cases over the last week. Dr Randeep Guleria, chairman of the Institute of Internal Medicine, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, and Director of Medical Education, told ANI that the H3N2 virus mutates every year during this time and spreads through droplets. Read more on this here

But what is H3N2 and how can people protect themselves? News18 explains in 5 Points:

1) H3N2 Influenza A

The Indian Council of Medical Research, or ICMR, has identified H3N2 as the origin of the current wave of fever and cold that has afflicted Indians across the country. It is a subtype of Influenza A. According to the US Centre of Disease Control (CDC), when influenza viruses that ordinarily circulate in pigs are detected in humans, they are referred to as “variant” viruses.

In July 2011, influenza A H3N2 variant viruses (commonly known as “H3N2v”) carrying the matrix (M) gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus were discovered in humans. The viruses were discovered in pigs in the United States in 2010. In 2011, 12 H3N2v human infections were discovered. Several H3N2v outbreaks occurred in 2012, resulting in 309 documented cases. Since then, there have been isolated cases of H3N2v infection, the report says.

2) What are the Symptoms?

As per CDC, H3N2 infection symptoms are comparable to seasonal flu viruses and can include fever, respiratory symptoms such as cough and runny nose, and possibly additional symptoms such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea.

3) But Does It Cause Serious Symptoms Too?

For the past two to three months, the virus has been circulating. According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) experts who monitor respiratory virus illnesses through the Virus Research and Diagnostic Labs network, it causes more hospitalisations than other subtypes, said an Economic Times report.

Experts have advised caution for people with co-morbidity conditions (Image: Shutterstock)

As per CDC, even in healthy persons, infections with influenza viruses (especially variant viruses like H3N2v) can cause serious sickness. This can entail consequences (such as pneumonia), which may necessitate hospitalisation and, in some cases, result in death. The health agency also adds that this virus appears to transfer more easily from pigs to humans than other swine influenza viruses.

The agency adds that influenza viruses are constantly evolving. It’s probable that the H3N2v virus will evolve and spread quickly from person to person, it says.

CDC and other research have also found that children born after 2001 had little to no immunity against H3N2v viruses. Adults appear to be more immune, possibly because they have been exposed to similar viruses in the past, the CDC explains.

4) Prevention Better Than Cure

The ICMR recommends the following safety precautions:

  • Wearing masks
  • Drinking enough fluids
  • Covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing
  • Avoiding touching the nose and eyes
  • Taking paracetamol for fever and bodyache to combat the virus (consult your healthcare professional for further advice).

5) Treatment: Don’t Over-prescribe Antibiotics, Experts Tell Doctors

As per Economic Times, the IMA has also requested that doctors only prescribe symptomatic treatment and not antibiotics. The body issued a statement; “people are starting to use antibiotics like Azithromycin and Amoxiclav without thinking about how long they should take them or how frequently they should take them. This must be prevented since it contributes to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics will not work because of resistance whenever they are actually used.”

With inputs from agencies

This article is not meant to be a substitute to medical advice. Contact your health care professional for a personalised diagnosis.

This report was originally published on March 7, 2023.

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