H3N2 Influenza A Virus: Symptoms, Treatment, Dos And Don'ts - All You Need To Know

H3N2, the sub-type of the Influenza A virus, is spreading rapidly across India, sparking fears for many.

The H3N2 virus causes respiratory illness.

The central government sources have said that H3N2, the sub-type of the Influenza A virus, has claimed two lives in the country. While one person died in Haryana, the other fatality was reported from Karnataka. The government sources also said that 90 cases of the flu caused by this virus have been reported across the country. H3N2 has in the past causes a number of influenza outbreaks in the country. The prevalence of flu symptoms among people is also influenced by the change in weather from extremely cold to warm.

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 rapid progression to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock and even death. Some of the common symptoms of H3N2 virus are:

  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throat ache/sore throat
  • An ache in muscles and body
  • In some cases, diarrhoea 
  • Sneezing and runny nose

If a person experiences difficulty in breathing, pain or discomfort in chest, continuous fever and pain in throat while gulping down the food, it is very 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.

What are the 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

They also say it's better to avoid:

  • 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

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.