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H3N2 Viral Infection - Causes, Risks, and Symptoms

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There is a spike in the number of cases of the H3N2 influenza virus globally. This article reviews the detrimental effects caused by the virus on health.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At May 18, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 18, 2023

Introduction

Recently, there has been a sudden spike in the number of cases of the H3N2 influenza virus world-wide. Patients are manifesting flu-like symptoms clinically. This virus is considered as one of the fastest-spreading viruses in humans and it makes several people very ill. Many seasonal flu outbreaks have occurred recently. The clinical symptoms like high fever, cold, cough, feeling of breathlessness, and pneumonia that are present in these patients also develop in patients infected with Covid19. Therefore, because of the similarities in the clinical symptoms of both diseases, people are scared if H3N2 is as deadly and fatal as SARS-CoV-2.

What Is the H3N2 Virus?

Influenza A virus subtype H3N2 is a subtype of non-human influenza virus that can infect birds and pigs. Mutations into the virus have led to the development of many strains in pigs and humans.

What Is the Mode of Transmission of H3N2 Virus?

  • Influenza viruses can be transmitted from pigs to humans and from humans to pigs. The mode of transmission from an infected pig to the humans is primarily through infected droplets. These droplets occur when an infected pig sneezes or coughs. If these infected droplets are inhaled through the nose or mouth, then the person might catch infection.

  • Another mode of virus spread is by touching an infected surface that contains virus particles and then taking those hands to the nose or mouth.

  • A third possible mode of virus transmission is by inhaling the influenza virus particles itself.

What Are the Clinical Symptoms of H3N2 Virus?

  • High temperature.

  • Fever with chills.

  • Cold.

  • Persistent cough.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Bad throat.

  • Stuffy and runny nose.

  • Frequent sneezing.

  • Watery stools.

  • Feeling of breathlessness.

  • Body ache.

  • Headaches.

  • Weakness.

  • Malaise.

  • Pneumonia.

  • Difficulty swallowing.

  • Wheezing.

Who Is at a Higher Risk of H3N2 Virus Infection?

People who are at an increased risk of developing complications if they are infected with H3N2 virus infection include:

  • Toddlers below the age of five years.

  • Older people who are 65 years and above.

  • Pregnant women.

  • People suffering from chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, compromised immune systems, and neurological diseases.

  • Children and farmers who are at an increased risk of exposure to agricultural farms and fairs.

Is H3N2 Virus Life-Threatening?

Currently, it is reported that the severity of H3N2 viral infection resembles that of seasonal influenza. Sometimes, it can lead to severe complications, hospitalizations, and even death, if left untreated, or in immunocompromised patients.

According to some medical experts, the sudden outbreak of the H3N2 virus is because of the lockdowns in the past two years, induced during COVID. They had prevented the children from being exposed to other viruses, including the influenza virus. Apart from this, the extensive use of mouth masks and hand sanitizers has prevented the children from getting exposed to this variant of influenza virus. According to them, the sudden spike in the number of cases is not an alarming sign, and the infection is not life-threatening in normal situations.

The H3N2 virus is a mutated variant of influenza with an antigenic drift, but is not life-threatening in normal circumstances. The reports have suggested that the maximum number of cases exhibited symptoms of cold, cough, and fever. A few cases presented signs of wheezing and breathlessness. In rare cases, hospitalization was required when signs and symptoms of pneumonia and seizures were seen.

Is H3N2 Infection Deadly Compared to COVID-19 in Children?

H3N2 is considered equivalent to Covid-19 in terms of deadlines in children, according to a few medical experts. The doctors consider the infection fatal enough to cause low oxygen levels, pneumonia, and seizures. Children may suffer from fever, cough, and a bad throat infection. Along with that, they can also suffer from loose, watery stools, vomiting, nausea, weakness, and lethargy. All these symptoms may lead to dehydration in children. If the patient is left untreated, he might be admitted to the intensive care unit, and may even require an advanced ventilator support system. The recovery phase for children is quite long.

What Precautions Should Be Taken to Avoid the H3N2 Infection From Worsening?

The symptoms need to be evaluated immediately, and the doctor should be consulted at once. Inadvertent use of antibiotics should be avoided. The initial symptoms are a high, persistent fever, cough, bodyache, and headache. The later symptoms are usually respiratory, and there is no need to start an antibiotic for a viral illness. Only symptomatic treatment of the infection should be done as the infection gets better on its own. Since there is an increase in flu cases, it is advisable to get the child vaccinated and maintain proper hygiene.

There is an immediate need for vaccination for all the children below the age of six years, and for individuals who are suffering from other comorbidities like heart illnesses, respiratory diseases, asthma, neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, etc. So, it is required to vaccinate the child with two doses in the first year, and repeat the flu vaccine every year up to five years before the commencement of monsoon season.

Other than that, other preventive measures should be taken by the individuals such as:

  • Maintain good hand hygiene by washing the hands frequently with soap and water.

  • Use of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants frequently.

  • Avoid overcrowding places.

  • Children should be prevented from touching their face and nose.

  • Wear mouth masks and gloves.

Conclusion

H3N2 virus infection is a predominant strain of influenza virus that causes an increased number of hospitalizations. Due to a rapid increase in the number of cases of H3N2, people are concerned if there could be another viral outbreak. However, hospitalization is not a regular concern of this infection. It occurs in rare cases. Most times, the disease is self-limiting. Therefore, if the symptoms are identified early, it is important to consult the doctor immediately. Also, proper preventive measures will prevent the infection from becoming deadly.

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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases

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pneumonia
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