Can H3N2 virus influenza become the next COVID-19 pandemic?

Can H3N2 virus influenza become the next COVID-19 pandemic?

Both COVID and the H3N2 virus attack the body’s respiratory system, making it difficult for the patient to breathe properly.

In 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus began to spread across China. The country reported its first case in September when a woman in Wuhan tested positive. Soon, not only was China witnessing the rise of the deadliest virus in human history, the world was beginning to confirm cases. The deadly and highly transmissible virus took hold of over 100 countries in 10 days. Looking at trends, the World Health Organization (WHO) has dubbed the virus outbreak a “pandemic.” It took over 3 years for countries to get the situation under control. In those 36+ months, the virus has claimed millions of lives and affected billions more. The frightening images of the virus outbreak didn’t even completely fade as India reported a spike in virus infection cases.

It is usually a very common phenomenon to see an increase in influenza virus during this time of the year. But 2023 was no ordinary year. The country experienced its worst influenza virus outbreak earlier this month. Several cases reported from the country showed how dangerously the virus is spreading and gripping states. Currently, the only variant wreaking havoc in India and driving most flu cases in the country is the H3N2 flu virus. With the worst memories related to virus outbreaks still fresh in people’s minds, the sudden spike in cases of the H3N2 flu virus has people wondering if it will be the next COVID. Let’s understand the possibilities with the help of data and experts.

COVID vs H3N2 Virus Infection: The Similarities

Both COVID and the H3N2 virus attack the body’s respiratory system, making it difficult for the patient to breathe properly. The transmission route of both viruses is also the same – they are transmitted from one body to the other through the air. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets carrying the virus can reach a healthy person’s respiratory system and enter through the nose and eyes.

Light Covid-19 symptoms are also similar to mild H3N2 infection symptoms. Both cause colds, coughs, fevers and body aches. However, there is a difference in the symptoms of the two viruses – an influenza virus infection such as H3N2 is more likely to cause a cold, body aches and headaches.

In short, both H3N2 and COVID-19 are similar in terms of respiratory infections and also share the same mode of spread from one person to another. They also share similar symptoms. Does this mean that someone who has had COVID-19 is at a higher risk of contracting H3N2, or that the occurrences of the two are linked in some way? Not really, to this day experts believe H3N2 is less dangerous than COVID-19.

COVID vs. H3N2 symptoms

Experts say there is no need to panic right now. Although H3N2 is spreading rapidly in India, the likelihood of it becoming a pandemic like COVID is very low. The reason for this lies in the symptoms that the two viruses cause. While COVID led to severe lung infections and pneumonia-like symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain, the H3N2 virus is limited to causing only signs such as a high fever and cough. According to the reports, about 27% suffered from shortness of breath, 16% from wheezing, 16% from pneumonia and 6% from seizures. About 10% of patients required oxygen and 7% required ICU care. Which is very small compared to COVID-19. In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in India, the virus was rampant and a maximum number of patients ended up in hospital with a drop in their oxygen levels.

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