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ICMR reports Influenza A subtype H3N2 as major cause of respiratory illness in India

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has identified Influenza A subtype H3N2 as the primary cause of the recent surge in respiratory illnesses in India. According to the data collected by the ICMR, influenza A H3N2 has been responsible for around half of all inpatient severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and outpatient influenza-like illnesses. The ICMR has established Pan respiratory virus surveillance across 30 VRDLs, and their surveillance data from December 15 to date indicates a rise in the number of H3N2 cases.

The ICMR has also highlighted that Influenza A subtype H3N2 appears to cause more hospitalizations than other subtypes. Out of the hospitalized SARI patients with influenza A H3N2, about 92 per cent have a fever, 86 per cent have a cough, 27 per cent have breathlessness, 16 per cent have wheezing, and an additional 16 per cent had clinical signs of pneumonia. Moreover, 10 per cent of SARI patients with H3N2 needed oxygen, and 7 per cent required ICU care. Therefore, the ICMR has suggested people take precautions such as washing hands regularly, avoiding shaking hands and spitting in public, wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, and taking plenty of fluids.

Dr Arjun Dang, CEO of Dr Dangs Lab, stated that H3N2 influenza cases are being reported more in comparison to H1N1. He further explained that they have received more than a few hundred tests in the past few weeks, out of which many are positive for H3N2. Notably, the ICMR was the first to report the prevalence of H3N2 in India in January.

Dr Sameer Bhati, a public health expert and director of Star imaging and path lab, has observed an increase in flu cases with H3N2 after diagnosis. They conduct RT PCR for its confirmation, where RNA is extracted from the samples and then amplified using RT PCR technology. The results are interpreted based on specific fluorescent dyes for each Influenza virus like H1N1, H3N2, H5N1, and H7N9. When H3N2 dominates the flu cases, the cases tend to be severe for people in at-risk groups like older adults and younger children. Additionally, people with chronic medical issues are more susceptible to flu complications due to weak immune systems and may require hospitalization.

In conclusion, it is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of the H3N2 virus, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is recommended to practice good hygiene, wear masks, and avoid crowded places. If symptomatic, people should seek medical attention and take plenty of fluids while avoiding self-medication.

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