Flu (Influenza): Questions and Answers

By Dr. Harshad Limaye in Internal Medicine

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

Q. What is H3N2 flu and how is it caused?

Ans: H3N2 is a type of influenza A virus, commonly known as the common flu in India. It causes respiratory distress and spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Being highly contagious, it can easily spread from person to person. The virus can mutate quickly, which makes it difficult to develop an effective vaccine against it.

Q. What are the other subtypes of the Influenza A virus? How is it different from the regular flu?

Ans: The most prevalent subtype of Influenza A virus in India is H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu. Other subtypes from the influenza A family include H2N2, H5N1, H7N9, and H9N2. H3N2 is different from its fellow subtypes in genetic makeup, antigenic properties, and seasonal prevalence in India. It mutates more rapidly than other influenza viruses, and hence it’s difficult to develop effective vaccines or treatments against the virus.

Q. Why are many people suffering from it during this time of the year? When does it usually occur?

Ans: The H3N2 or common flu usually spreads during winter months, between December and February, similar to all respiratory diseases. In India, it spreads easily from person to person due to densely packed urban areas and the overall lack of general hand hygiene or masking protocols. The colder climate and low humidity during the season further contribute to the spread of the virus.

Q. Which age group or group of people is most susceptible to the flu?

Ans: While everyone is susceptible to the flu, individuals with existing respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis, immunocompromising conditions, lifestyle comorbidities such as heart disease or diabetes, children, and senior citizens are most at risk of developing severe infections that may require hospitalization.

Q. What are the symptoms of H3N2 flu?

Ans: At present, most patients with H3N2 are experiencing symptoms such as sore throat, persistent dry cough, and high-grade fever which can go up to 102°F. Some patients may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Q. The ICMR has said there have been more hospitalizations for it than its other subtypes. Why should people be concerned about the H3N2 flu?

Ans: While the condition is not alarming, as most patients are recovering within two days of starting Tamiflu, the symptoms of the virus do overlap with those of COVID, which is adding to the anxiety of patients. We urge individuals not to panic and seek treatment immediately after the onset of symptoms.

Q. Is your hospital currently seeing more people come in for treatment for the flu? How many cases has Mumbai seen till now?

Ans: There is no data on the city level since H3N2 is not a notifiable disease, but we have observed an increase in the number of flu patients coming to Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital. Each day, we see around 12-13 patients with similar symptoms of persistent dry cough, throat pain, cold, and high-grade fever, testing positive for H3N2. Most of these patients are young working individuals, which indicates that the disease is spreading through crowded areas such as trains, cinema halls, or markets.

Q. When should people visit the doctor, and can H3N2 flu be treated?

Ans. People should visit a doctor immediately after the onset of symptoms, especially individuals with pre-existing respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis, immunocompromising conditions, lifestyle comorbidities such as heart disease or diabetes, children, and senior citizens. They should not delay seeking professional advice before starting any Over-The-Counter self-medication or home remedies. Additionally, if you are experiencing any symptoms, ensure you wear masks and maintain hand hygiene to break the chain of infection.

Q. Are people who have suffered from COVID at greater risk of being affected by the H3N2 flu?

Ans. It is unclear whether people who have suffered from COVID-19 are at greater risk of being affected by the H3N2 flu. However, people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, which may have resulted from COVID-19 infections, may be at higher risk of developing complications from both viruses.

Q. Can the H3N2 flu be prevented? Does wearing masks help?

Ans. Getting the flu vaccine shot can increase your protective levels against H3N2 infection. Gold preventive standards for any respiratory illness, such as regularly washing hands, wearing a mask, and avoiding crowded areas when sick, also apply to the flu. A simple triple-layer surgical mask also acts as a protective barrier, preventing infected droplets from spreading from one person to another. Therefore, it is essential to wear masks to prevent H3N2 infection.

Q. Are there any specific types of food that can be consumed to prevent or deal with the flu?

Ans. There is no specific type of food that can prevent or cure H3N2 flu. However, a healthy and balanced diet can help support the immune system, which can potentially reduce the severity of the illness and help the body fight off the virus. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, whole grains, and healthy fats can provide the body with essential nutrients to support immune function.

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