H3N2 influenza: Around 450 cases reported in India so far, death toll reaches 9 – WHO says what about the flu

The 38th meeting of Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA, which was organised under the stewardship of Lieutenant General VK Saxena, took stock of preparedness for the outbreak of influenza, discussing the prevalent situation of H3N2, H1N1 flu, and Covid-19.

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The team identified a broad list of diagnoses that occurred more frequently in patients who had recently had COVID-19 compared with non-infected individuals.

Amidst the heightened risk of H3N2 influenza virus outbreak with around 451 cases reported across the country between January and March this year — as the Union Health Ministry data suggests — states in India are put on alert. The death toll owing to the H3N2 virus reached nine on Friday with the latest being a 73-year old man died after contracting the infection in Maharashtra’s Pune. 

Two H3N2 cases reported in Gurugram

According to the health department, Gurugram witnessed two more cases of influenza subtype H3N2 on Saturday, a day after the first case of a four-year-old child tested positive for the virus in the city, reported PTI. As per the report, an 11-year-old baby girl and a 55-year-old woman tested positive for the H3N2 influenza

The woman is in home isolation after the discharge from a private hospital with improvement in her health, while the baby girl is still being treated in a medical college in Rohtak. The health department has sent samples of 150 people for examination and is keeping close eyes on all patients. 

Delhi takes stock of preparedness for H3N2 flu

The 38th meeting of Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA, which was organised under the stewardship of Lieutenant General VK Saxena, took stock of preparedness for the outbreak of influenza, discussing the prevalent situation of H3N2, H1N1 flu, and Covid-19. During the meeting it was decided that protocols–though not mandatorily– like hand hygiene, sanitation, masking, physical distance etc should be followed. 

Meanwhile, the Delhi government issued an advisory urging people to take precautionary measures like avoiding crowded places, maintaining arm-distance from infected persons and washing hands. The Health Ministry instructed hospitals, healthcare centers, and surveillance units to monitor cases closely and spread awareness with the help of advertisements through newspapers and FM radio in the national capital. At present, around 20 cases are being seen in Lok Nayak Hospital everyday and 7-8 cases in other hospitals, said the Health Ministry. 

Campaign against H3N2 virus in Uttar Pradesh

The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to kickstart a campaign to prevent the spread of disease like H3N2 virus and meningitis across the state. Following the instructions of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the Directorate of Urban Bodies has issued directions to all stakeholders including officers of all Municipal bodies, Municipal Commissioners and Jalkal department. The awareness drive is slated to kick off from April 1 in order to control communicable diseases.    

Other states issue advisory 

The government in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh has also issued dos and don’ts to checkmate the uptick in flu cases. Influenza is an infectious disease like COVID-19. People have been cautioned to avoid going to crowded places, maintain adequate distance from each other, use masks and take special care of hand hygiene. The Centre had on March 11 requested all states and union territories to follow operational guidelines for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) or severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), reported PTI. 

What is H3N2?

H3N2 is an influenza virus which spreads from pigs to humans. H3N2 is a subtype of influenza A virus after H1N1. It is highly contagious that spreads from one person to another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus was first identified in US pigs in 2010. People of all-age groups could be vulnerable to H3N2. Elderly patients with comorbidities need to be more careful. 

What health experts say

According to health experts, these viruses generally spread during weather changes as viruses find conducive time to multiply and transmit among people rapidly. The infection of H3N2 virus may continue for five to seven days. People generally take a week to recover while in some patients, recovery period has been seen 10 to 12 days. 

Doctors and health specialists are of the view that the rising cases of H3N2 influenza is not a cause of concern, but people are advised to stay safe. People are advised not to panic but they should follow Covid pandemic protocols. Maintaining basic health hygiene, social distancing, avoiding crowded places, wearing masks, getting sound sleep, eating balanced diets, staying hydrated, practicing Yoga and physical work-out will enable a person to keep the flu at bay.   

Symptomatic treatment

Medically, a symptomatic treatment is recommended to ease symptoms like fever, cough and nasal congestion. Adequate rest with home-cooked fresh food and proper hydration is deemed to be the best medicine to get recovery. However, painkillers, paracetamol, cough suppressants and nebulizers are recommended by doctors to give relief to patients. 

Common symptoms

It is quite difficult to differentiate the symptoms between Covid and flu. There are some common symptoms seen in both patients of Covid and flu: sore throat, cough, headache, body ache, weakness, tiredness and fever. As per health experts, H3N2 can cause throat hoarseness, while in the case of Covid 19 a patient could have a fever or stuffy nose. In the flu, a patient could feel intense body ache and dry cough could last for a longer period. In Covid 19 patients, loss of smell and taste could be seen with rashes on the body.   

Prevention: WHO

WHO underlines the famous maxim: “Prevention is better than cure.” According to the World Health Organisation, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu disease. Vaccines are safe and effective, which have been used for more than 60 years. Inoculation is recommended annually to protect against influenza as body immunity gained from vaccination goes down over time. 

WHO says that vaccination is quite important for people at high risk of influenza complications. Influenza vaccine provides protection cover among healthy adults, even when circulating viruses are mutants. For elderly people, influenza vaccination can reduce severity of disease 

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First published on: 19-03-2023 at 13:38 IST
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