As per the latest data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there have been 3,038 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in India until March 9, 2023. The majority of the flu cases are linked to the H3N2 influenza virus.
About H3N2 Influenza:
- Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. H3N2 influenza, also known as the “Hong Kong flu,” is a type of influenza virus that can cause respiratory illness in humans.
- Influenza viruses, which cause the infectious disease known as flu, are of four different types: A, B, C and D.
- H3N2 and H1N1 viruses are a subtype of the Influenza A virus. Influenza A is usually associated with more severe diseases and deaths.
- Symptoms: H3N2 patients display symptomssimilar to COVID-19: fever, cough, breathlessness, wheezing and pneumonia. The infection usually lasts for about five to seven days.
- Spread: This contagious virus can be transmitted from person to person through droplets of cough, sneezing, and physical contact after contacting a contaminated surface.Young children and people with co-morbidities like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions are at a higher risk.
- Prevention and cure: Self-hygiene, Social distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Oseltamivir, a drug used to treat H1N1 (swine flu), has been recommended by the World Health Organization for the treatment of H3N2 cases as well. The drug is made available through the public health system free of cost.
Reasons for the spike in cases:
- The virus spreads as the season changes. India usually sees two flu peaks every year — between January and March and, post-monsoon, between August and October.
- Fewer flu infections during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a large reservoir of people with lower immunity.
- The flu virus is prone to changing its structure, i.e., an increase in flu cases can be seen usually every other year.
- India’s burden of conditions like diabetes and heart disease — which are risk factors for influenza— is huge even among the young. Further, the yearly flu shot is not readily available in government set-ups, and its uptake is not high.