Recent reports from ICMR show that cases of flu caused by the virus H3N2 is spreading across the country. This viral strain causes prolonged illness and has led to more hospitalizations than flu infections caused by other type of strains[i]. People whose immunity is weak are more likely to suffer from complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and seizures, where H3N2 can also be life-threatening in some cases[ii]. ICMR data show that in the past three months, 10% of SARI* patients hospitalized with H3N2 complications needed oxygen and 7% required ICU careii.
H3N2 is a sub-type of influenza A virusiii. Every year during seasonal changes, the temperature change causes flu viruses to rise and spread fast. Annually some subtypes spread more than othersiv. All flu viruses, including H3N2, spread through an infected individual when they cough, sneeze, or talk. They can also spread when uninfected people touch an object or surface contaminated by these viruses and then touch their nose or mouthv.
People most at risk for H3N2 and other strains of flu are children below 5 years of age, ageing adults, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, kidney disease and heart disease.vi The main symptoms of flu infection are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffed nose and headache & bodyaches. In H3N2 infection, the fever usually lasts for three days, but the cough can persist for 3 weeks.vii
Dr. P.P. Giri, Consultant, ICH, says, “Children below 5 years of age at are at a high risk of Flu & its complications like pneumonia & hospitalisations. I advise all parents to talk to their Doctor about Flu vaccination. Flu Vaccination is well tolerated & is recommended as an annual Flu shot till the age of 5.”
“For people with reduced immunity such as ageing adults and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart condition, asthma, and COPD, the flu infection may be more severe and lead to complications. I would advise all people to consult their doctor regarding 4-in-1 flu vaccination which can protect against H3N2 and 3 other sub-types of the flu virus.”, says Dr. Sabyasachi Chowdhury, Chest Physician.
Various Health Authorities recommend seasonal flu vaccination for high-risk groups such as healthcare workers, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases, older adults above 65 years of age and children between 6 months – 5 years of ageviii. Other measures advised by doctors to prevent H3N2 flu and stop its spreadi are to wash hands frequently, use masks in crowded places and avoid contact with an infected person.