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H3N2 Influenza A Virus: Symptoms, Treatment, Dos And Don'ts

NEW DELHI, March 10: The central government sources have said that H3N2, the sub-type of the Influenza A virus, has claimed two lives in the country. While one person died in Haryana, the other fatality was reported from Karnataka. The government sources also said that 90 cases of the flu caused by this virus have been reported across the country.

H3N2 has in the past causes a number of influenza outbreaks in the country. The prevalence of flu symptoms among people is also influenced by the change in weather from extremely cold to warm.

What is H3N2 virus?

It is an influenza virus that causes respiratory infection. The virus can also infect birds and mammals. In bird and other animals, it has mutated into many strains.

H3N2 is a subtype of Influenza A virus, which is an important cause of human influenza, according to Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and World health Organization (WHO).

What are the symptoms?

According to WHO, avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza infections in humans may cause disease ranging from mild upper respiratory infection (fever and cough) to rapid progression to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock and even death. Some of the common symptoms of H3N2 virus are:

Chills
Coughing
Fever
Nausea
Vomiting
Throat ache/sore throat
An ache in muscles and body
In some cases, diarrhoea
Sneezing and runny nose

If a person experiences difficulty in breathing, pain or discomfort in chest, continuous fever and pain in throat while gulping down the food, it is very important to see a doctor.

How does the virus spread?

The extremely contagious H3N2 influenza can be transmitted from one person to another through droplets released when coughing, sneezing, or talking by an infected individual. It can also spread if someone touches their mouth or nose after contacting a surface that has the virus on it. Pregnant women, young children, elderly adults, and persons with underlying medical issues are at a higher risk of flu-related complications.

What are the precautions to be taken?

Since the virus attacks the respiratory tract, it is very important to:

Keep checking the oxygen level continuously with the help of Pulse Oximeter
If the oxygen saturation level is less than 95 per cent, a visit to the doctor is mandatory.
If the oxygen saturation level is less than 90 per cent, then intensive care may be required.
Experts caution against self-medication in such cases

What are the treatment options?

Taking proper rest, drinking lots of fluids and using over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever are all part of the H3N2 influenza treatment regimen. If a patient has severe symptoms or is at a high risk of problems, a doctor may also recommend antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir and zanamivir.

WHO further says that in suspected and confirmed cases, neuraminidase inhibitors should be prescribed as soon as possible (ideally, within 48 hours following symptom onset) to maximize therapeutic benefits.

Dos and Don'ts

The virus can spread rapidly among humans from infected people. So, experts say it is very important to follow some protocols:

Regularly wash your hands with water and soap
Wear face masks and avoid crowded areas
Avoid touching your nose and mouth
Cover your nose and mouth properly while coughing and sneezing
Stay hydrated and consume plenty of fluids
In case of fever and bodyache, take paracetamol

They also say it's better to avoid:

Spitting in public areas
Using contact-based greetings such as shaking hands
Self-medicating and taking antibiotics or any other medications without consulting a doctor
Eating while seated next to other people

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has, meanwhile, urged doctors to not prescribe antibiotics to patients before confirming whether the infection is bacterial, as this can build up a resistance. Most current cases of fever, cough, sore throat, and body ache are cases of influenza, for which antibiotics are not needed.

Flu Cases With Severe Symptoms Rise, India Issues Advisory

NEW DELHI, March 4: Several parts of India have been reporting a high number of influenza cases in the last two months with prolonged illness and lingering cough. After battling two years of Covid pandemic, the rise in flu cases has created a scare among general public.

A high number of cases of fever and flu are being reported across India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that this is due to the Influenza A subtype H3N2 virus.

The H3N2 virus causes more hospitalisations than other subtypes. Experts say that it has been in wide circulation across India for the past two-three months.

The symptoms usually include a persistent cough, accompanied by fever. In the recent cases, a lot of patients are complaining of prolonged symptoms.

"Infection is taking time to get resolved. Symptoms are stronger. Symptoms persist for a prolonged period, even after the recovery of the patient," says Dr Anurag Mehrotra, Siddh Hospital.

Experts say that the H3N2 virus causes more hospitalisations than other influenza subtypes.

Dr Anita Ramesh, a clinical trial specialist, says that the new strain of influenza is not life-threatening. "It is not life-threatening. But some of my patients had to get admitted due to respiratory problems. Some of the symptoms are similar to Covid, but all my patients have tested Covid negative," said Dr Ramesh.

The ICMR has also suggested a list of Dos and Don'ts for people to follow to protect themselves from contracting the virus.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), on the other hand, has advised against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics amid rising cases of cough, cold, and nausea across the country.

The association has also asked doctors to prescribe only symptomatic treatment and not antibiotics.

"We have already seen widespread use of Azithromycin and Ivermectin during Covid and this too has led to resistance. It is necessary to diagnose whether the infection is bacterial or not before prescribing antibiotics," the medical body said in a statement.

Study Links Artificial Sweetener To Higher Rates Of Heart Attack And Stroke

WASHINGTON, Feb 28: An artificial sweetener has been linked to increased risk of blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and death in a new study, as reported by CNN. The sugar replacement is known as erythritol and the study about it has been published in journal Nature Medicine.

It further said that people with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood.

Lead author Dr Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, told the outlet, "The degree of risk was not modest."

"If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It's on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes," Dr Hazen added.

Cleveland Clinic said on its website that researchers studied over 4,000 people in the US and Europe for the study. They also tested how erythritol aids in blood clotting. Results revealed that erythritol made platelets easier to activate and form a clot.

"This certainly sounds an alarm. There appears to be a clotting risk from using erythritol. Obviously, more research is needed, but in an abundance of caution, it might make sense to limit erythritol in your diet for now," Dr Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at a hospital in Dever, told CNN. Dr Freeman was not involved in the research.

However, the Calorie Control Council, an industry association, said the study goes against scientific research.

''The results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe, as evidenced by global regulatory permissions for their use in foods and beverages," Robert Rankin, the council's executive director, told CNN.

Artificial sweeteners are common replacements for table sugar. Erythritol is about 70 per cent as sweet as sugar and is produced through fermenting corn.

COVID-19 Likely Spread Through Mishap At Chinese Laboratory: Report

WASHINGTON, Feb 27: New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the novel coronavirus pandemic, reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office.

The conclusion was a change from the department's earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged, reported WSJ.

The update, which is less than five pages, wasn't requested by the Congress. But lawmakers, particularly House and Senate Republicans, are pursuing their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic and are pressing the Biden administration and the intelligence community for more information.

The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau fof Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, reported WSJ.

The Energy Department's conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of US national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.

Energy Department's insights come from its network of national laboratories, some of which conduct biological research, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with "moderate confidence" and still holds this view.

US officials added that while the Energy Department and the FBI each say an unintended lab leak is the most likely cause of the pandemic, they arrived at those conclusions for different reasons.

The updated document underscores how intelligence officials are still putting together the pieces on how Covid-19 emerged. More than one million Americans have died in the pandemic that began more than three years ago, reported WSJ.

However, the conclusion was made with "low confidence," and came as America's intelligence agencies remained divided over the origins of the coronavirus, reported WSJ.

Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still believe that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.

The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency that officials wouldn't name remain undecided between the lab-leak and natural-transmission theories, the people who have read the classified report said.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan declined to confirm or deny the Journal's reporting in an appearance Sunday on CNN. He said President Biden had repeatedly directed every part of the intelligence community to invest in trying to discern as much as possible about the origins of the pandemic.

"President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are part of the Energy Department, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here," Sullivan said.

The Covid-19 virus first circulated in Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, according to the US 2021 intelligence report. The pandemic's origin has been the subject of vigorous debate among academics, intelligence experts and lawmakers.

The emergence of the pandemic heightened tensions between the US and China, which US officials alleged was withholding information about the outbreak. It also led to a spirited and at times partisan debate in the US about its origin.

China, which has placed limits on investigations by the World Health Organisation, has disputed that the virus could have leaked from one of its labs and has suggested it emerged outside China.

The Chinese government didn't respond to requests for comment about whether there has been any change in its views on the origins of Covid-19.

However, the fact that Wuhan is the center of China's extensive coronavirus research, has led some scientists and US officials to argue that a lab leak is the best explanation for the pandemic's beginning.

Wuhan is home to an array of laboratories, many of which were built or expanded as a result of China's traumatic experience with the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic beginning in 2002.

They include campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, which produces vaccines.

WHO Chief Says China Under-Reports COVID-19 Deaths

GENEVA, Jan 11: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that the organization's data on the number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide is lowered due to the under-reporting of cases by China.

"Last week, almost 11,500 deaths were reported to the WHO: about 40 per cent from the Americas, 30 per cent from Europe and 30 per cent from the Western Pacific region. However, this number is almost certainly an underestimate, given the underreporting of COVID-related deaths in China," Ghebreyesus told a briefing, according to the remarks published on the WHO website.

The WHO chief urged all countries to share true statistics so as to contribute to a more effective fight against the spread of the disease. Last week, Tedros asked China for reliable data on Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the country.

"We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing," Tedros said at a media briefing in Geneva. This comment came after WHO held a high-level meeting with counterparts in China to discuss the surge in cases and hospitalisation.

Back in December, the Chinese government dropped its zero COVID-19 policy toward the pandemic after almost three years, leading to a mammoth rise in cases in a matter of few weeks. Later in January, obligatory PCR testing and centralized isolation for people arriving in China were cancelled.

The sudden spike in the covid tally of China has forced a number of countries, including the United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea, to tighten measures against passengers arriving from the country.

During the media briefing, Tedros said throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped WHO to track the spread and development of new variants.

"But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90 per cent, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third," he said.

The WHO chief noted that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak. However, he added that the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away.

Tedros underlined that sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5. "We urge all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences," he added.

Current Numbers 'Under-Represent True Impact' Of Covid In China: WHO

GENEVA, Jan 4: The World Health Organization criticised Wednesday China's "very narrow" definition of Covid deaths, warning that official statistics were not showing the true impact of the outbreak.

"We still do not have complete data," the WHO's emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters.

"We believe that the current numbers being published from China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, and particularly in terms of deaths."

His comments came amid growing concern over China's steep rise in Covid infections since Beijing last month abruptly lifted years of hardline restrictions, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.

Yet China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such fatalities -- meaning that Beijing's own statistics about the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality.

"We believe that definition is too narrow," Ryan said, pointing out that the definition Beijing is using "requires a respiratory failure" associated with a Covid infection for a fatality to be registered as a Covid death.

"That is a very narrow definition."

He stressed that it was vital to have accurate information about how the virus was spreading and the true impact it was having, and he suggested that individual health professionals could help provide a more accurate picture.

"We do not discourage doctors and nurses reporting these deaths and these cases. We have an open approach to be able to record the actual impact of disease in society."

He recognised that China had stepped up its engagement with the WHO in recent weeks, and said "we look forward to receiving more comprehensive data."

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the organisation's officials had held high-level talks in recent weeks with counterparts in China.

"We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalisation and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing," he said.

"Data remains essential for WHO to carry out regular, rapid, and robust risk assessments of the current situation and adjust our advice and guidance accordingly," he said.

He reiterated that the UN health agency understood why a number of countries were introducing fresh Covid curbs on visitors from China.

"With circulation in China so high and comprehensive data not forthcoming... it is understandable that some countries are taking steps they believe will protect their own citizens," he said.

70 Per Cent Of Shanghai May Have Been Infected With Covid: Top Doctor

SHANGHAI, Jan 3: A senior doctor at one of Shanghai's top hospitals has said 70 per cent of the megacity's population may have been infected with Covid-19 during China's huge surge in cases, state media reported Tuesday.

The steep rise in infections came after years of hardline restrictions were abruptly loosened last month with little warning or preparation, and quickly overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums.

Chen Erzhen, vice president at Ruijin Hospital and a member of Shanghai's Covid expert advisory panel, estimated that the majority of the city's 25 million people may have been infected.

"Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70 per cent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than (in April and May)," he told Dajiangdong Studio, owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.

Shanghai suffered a gruelling two-month lockdown in April, during which over 600,000 residents were infected and many were hauled to mass quarantine centres.

But now, the Omicron variant is spreading rampantly across the city and experts predict infections there will peak in early 2023.

In other major cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing and Guangzhou, Chinese health officials have suggested that the wave has already peaked.

Chen added that his Shanghai hospital was seeing 1,600 emergency admissions daily -- double the number prior to restrictions being lifted -- with 80 per cent of them Covid patients.

"More than 100 ambulances arrive at the hospital every day," he was quoted as saying, adding that around half of emergency admissions were vulnerable people aged over 65.

At Tongren Hospital in downtown Shanghai, AFP reporters saw patients receiving emergency medical attention outside the entrance of the overcrowded facility on Tuesday.

Chinese officials are bracing for a virus wave to hit China's underresourced rural interior, as millions of people prepare to travel back to their hometowns for the week-long Lunar New Year public holiday beginning January 21.

In an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Monday, National Health Commission (NHC) official Jiao Yahui admitted that dealing with the expected peak in rural areas would be an "enormous challenge".

"What we are most worried about is in the past three years nobody has returned home for Lunar New Year but they finally can this year," said Jiao.

"As a result, there may be a retaliatory surge of urban residents into the countryside to visit their relatives, so we are even more worried about the rural epidemic."

She also acknowledged the pressure on hospital emergency departments and promised that authorities would coordinate medical resources to ensure the treatment of patients in underfunded areas.

Meanwhile, over a dozen countries have imposed Covid testing restrictions on passengers from China after Beijing announced its borders would reopen from January 8.

Countries including the United States have also cited Beijing's lack of transparency around infection data and the risk of new variants as a reason to restrict travellers.

China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December, and dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths early in the month.

But Jiao told reporters on Thursday that China had always published data "on Covid-19 deaths and severe cases in the spirit of openness and transparency".

"China has always been committed to the scientific criteria for judging Covid-19 deaths, from beginning to end, which are in line with the international criteria," Jiao said.

Share Specific, Real-Time Info On Covid Situation, WHO Tells China

GENEVA, Jan 3: The World Health Organization on Friday once again urged China's health officials to regularly share specific and real-time information on the COVID-19 situation in the country, as it continues to assess the latest surge in infections.

The agency has asked Chinese officials to share more genetic sequencing data, as well as data on hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.

Official figures from China have become an unreliable guide as less testing is being done across the country following the recent easing of the strict "zero-COVID" policy.

WHO has previously said that China may be struggling to keep a tally of COVID-19 infections.

The agency has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at its meeting of a technical advisory group scheduled for Jan. 3.

COVID infections have risen across China this month after Beijing dismantled its zero-COVID policies including regular PCR testing on its population. The United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan have all imposed COVID tests for travellers from China in response.

The United States has also attributed the recent change in its policy to the lack of information on COVID variants and concerns that the increased cases in China could result in the development of new variants of the virus.

Senior Chinese health officials exchanged views with the WHO on the new coronavirus via a video conference, China's National Health Commission said in a statement earlier on Friday.

Both sides exchanged views on the current epidemic situation, medical treatment, vaccination and other technical matters, the Chinese health authority said, adding that more technical exchanges would be held.

 


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