Influenza H3N2 Virus: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
New virus alert!
Time to hold on to your masks and hand sanitizers and gear up; just when we thought we were getting a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic, a new virus emerged to keep us on our toes.
The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Millions of individuals worldwide are affected by this highly contagious disease every year. Among the different types of influenza viruses, H3N2 is one of the most virulent and has caused several outbreaks and pandemics recently. Since December 2022, there have been cases of this viral infection recorded across the country, but the numbers are currently increasing exponentially. Understanding H3N2 and adopting the necessary safeguards will help to protect ourselves and our communities from the disease's devastating effects.
What is H3N2?
This virus was first detected in 1968, and it has since caused several flu pandemics and outbreaks around the world. There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C, and D; however, the A and B types are responsible for seasonal respiratory diseases almost every year. The virus is constantly evolving, which can result in the formation of novel strains that cause more severe sickness.
According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), an H3N2 infection usually lasts 5-7 days, with the fever subsiding after 3 days. However, because coughing might last up to three weeks, people should not panic. As per the Indian Medical Association, this virus usually affects those under the age of 15 or above the age of 50.
What are the symptoms of H3N2?
While the symptoms of H3N2 infection are similar to those of seasonal influenza or flu, medical practitioners find it challenging to differentiate it from normal flu. The symptoms of H3N2 infection include:
How does H3N2 spread?
The transmission of H3N2 is primarily through respiratory droplets that are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can then enter the mouth or nose of those who are nearby or be inhaled
Additionally, the virus can also spread indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs or countertops, and then touching one's mouth, nose, or eyes. The H3N2 virus can survive on surfaces for several hours, so it is crucial to maintain good hand hygiene and regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces to prevent the spread of the virus.
Senior citizens, children, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems are more likely to spread the virus over time.
Is there a vaccine for H3N2?
At present, there is no vaccine available for H3N2 infection. Although scientists have initiated early steps to develop a vaccine. It is important to note that the seasonal flu vaccine does not provide protection against H3N2 infection. Instead, it only guards against seasonal influenza viruses.
How is H3N2 treated?
To recover from an H3N2 infection, the Indian Medical Association suggests avoiding panic and refraining from taking antibiotics like azithromycin and amoxicillin without consulting a doctor as it could lead to antibiotic resistance. Instead, individuals infected with influenza H3N2 can take the following steps to recover more quickly.
- Get plenty of rest
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Do warm saline gargling to soothe a sore throat
- Eat home-cooked, low-spice, and low-fat food to support the immune system.
- Avoid high-sodium or high-sugar food to prevent dehydration.
- Take steam to help relieve chest congestion and breathing difficulties.
- Follow the medicines and guidance from the doctor to treat symptoms.
Consult a general physician if you experience any of the H3N2 infection symptoms. It is important to avoid panicking and taking random medications. Medical professionals will assess your condition and provide a personalized treatment plan to help you recover faster.
How can I protect myself from H3N2? Know the prevention steps!
As the H3N2 virus primarily targets the respiratory system, it is crucial to take measures to prevent its spread. The following steps can help you and your family stay safe from H3N2 and other viral infections:
- Use hand sanitizers while traveling to keep your hands clean
- Consume fruits and green leafy vegetables to boost your immunity
- Wash your hands before eating and touching your face, nose, or mouth
- Avoid contact with people already infected with H3N2, seasonal flu, or influenza
- Avoid crowded places
- Wear masks in public areas
- Get the flu vaccine every year
- Do not spit in public
How is H3N2 virus different from the H1N1 virus or swine flu?
Although the H3N2 virus is similar to swine flu or the H1N1 virus, there are slight differences in their genetic material. Myalgia, which is muscle pain, fever, headache, general malaise and sore throat were common in all groups. However, in terms of fever, leukopenia, and C-reactive protein, the H3N2 infection is found to be more severe than the H1N1 or B strains of the virus.
Is COVID-19 the same as influenza?
COVID-19 and influenza show similar symptoms and can persist for two to three months, with both viruses circulating concurrently in the community. Officials are now testing patients who show signs of influenza for COVID-19 as well. However, the two diseases have different causative agents, and certain individuals may be more susceptible to severe illness from one virus over the other. Additionally, treatments for each disease differ.
In conclusion, H3N2 is a highly contagious virus that causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to severe sickness in some individuals. While there is no vaccine available for H3N2 infection, taking preventive measures such as good hand hygiene and avoiding contact with infected individuals can help in reducing its spread. If you experience any symptoms of H3N2 infection, it is best to consult a doctor for personalized treatment and avoid taking antibiotics without medical advice.