February and March represent a transition period between seasons, leading to many people falling sick owing to the changing weather. As if that wasn’t enough, hospitals throughout India have also been filling up over the past few weeks due to a new wave of patients affected by the flu. Far from an ordinary flu, this H3N2 subtype of Influenza A that has been in circulation lately causes fever and cough that can persist up to three weeks in some cases.
It leads to more hospitalisations than any other subtype, and the resulting panic has increased sales and the use of antibiotics and other medications. In lieu of this, the Indian Medical Association even had to issue a notice to prevent indiscriminate and unnecessary use of such medication without a doctor’s recommendation.
With Holi and the festival season across the corner, crowded masses may become a common sight again. Since H3N2 spreads through droplets similar to COVID-19, wearing masks and physical distancing is a must if we wish to curb the spread of the disease, many experts note.
“We had a pandemic many years ago because of H1N1. The circulating strain of that virus is now H3N2, and, therefore, it is a normal influenza strain. But we are seeing more cases because as the virus mutates a little bit, the immunity that we had against the virus becomes a little less and therefore people who are susceptible tend to get infection more easily,” notes Dr Randeep Guleria, former Director of AIIM-Delhi.
The Karnataka government has already ordered the health staff of all hospitals to wear face masks compulsorily and get the influenza vaccination to curb the spread of the virus. The southern state confirmed 26 cases of the virus on Monday, with two cases in the capital city of Bengaluru, IANS reports.
“The Central government, in its guidelines, has set a target of 25 tests per week, and we are screening 25 cases of SARI (severe acute respiratory infections) and ILI (influenza-like illness) in Victoria and Vani Vilasa Hospitals to keep track of the variants,” explains State Health Minister K Sudhakar.
While the risk from the H3N2 flu is higher in pregnant women, young children and older adults (below 15 and above 50 years of age), the disease can be extremely frustrating to deal with, no matter which demographic you belong to. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts the Indian Council of Medical Research suggests to help protect ourselves from contracting the virus.
- Regularly wash hands with water and soap
- Wear face masks and avoid crowded areas
- Avoid touching mouth and nose
- Cover nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing
- Stay hydrated and consume plenty of fluids
- Take only prescribed medicines (such as paracetamol) in case of fever and body ache.
- Shake hands or use other contact-based greetings
- Spit in public
- Self-medicate with antibiotics
- Eat while sitting next to others in a crowd
If you experience a persisting fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body pain and fatigue, chills, vomiting or diarrhoea, it might be wise to check in with your healthcare provider to test for the virus. And they might prescribe rest, fluids, and medication to alleviate the symptoms accordingly.
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