H3N2 is the new wily virus driving people to hospitals
Doctors say that the city is rife with people showing similar symptoms and testing positive for H3N2 -- a sub-type of Influenza A virus. Symptoms of the illness are: high-grade fever, joint pain, cough and weakness, which can last for up to two weeks. They have tracked the rise in the cases since over a month
Mumbai: Kandivali-based fashion designer Kanchan Racharla, 29, has just recovered from high-grade fever, body ache and cold. She picked up the infection from her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter who had suffered similarly. Soon, her husband and her parents also took ill. “The fever was as high as 102-103 and the body ache was so bad that I couldn’t get up from the bed,” she said. The Racharlas were prescribed oseltamivir – an antiviral medication for influenza, which had them back on their feet in four days.
“I was told the H3N2 strain is in circulation. We did not test since it was expensive,” she said.
Doctors say that the city is rife with people showing similar symptoms and testing positive for H3N2 -- a sub-type of Influenza A virus. Symptoms of the illness are: high-grade fever, joint pain, cough and weakness, which can last for up to two weeks. They have tracked the rise in the cases since over a month.
Dr Shalmali Inamdar, internal medicine specialist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital-Andheri said, lately the hospital’s outdoor patients department (OPD) has been observing a rush of H3N2 cases. “Of the five cases we see every day, four are H3N2 and one H1N1. The patients come with severe myalgia, which is a lot of body pain, muscle pain, headache along with runny nose. Previously, we used to get to get a lot of upper respiratory tract symptoms like running nose and cough but no body ache,” she said.
Blame it on bad air
While Influenza A is typically self-limiting and does not require hospitalisation, doctors warn that rising pollution levels and temperature fluctuations may be exacerbating the illness, prolonging the recovery period and leading to repeated episodes of cough and cold.
“Most patients don’t need hospitalisation but we had two patients last week -- a 45-year-old man, with no comorbidity, and a 58-year-old woman – who had to be admitted. The man had a persistent high-grade fever which did not settle down with OPD treatment. Alongside, he had cough and landed with allergic bronchitis. We had to start him on injectable medicines along with nebulisation,” said Dr Neeraj Tulara - Infectious Disease Specialist at L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai. He said the woman too had no comorbidity but had two episodes of unconsciousness due to high-grade fever and dehydration and hence was hospitalised.
“We are seeing almost more than 50-70 patients daily in hospitals with similar symptoms. Apart from the regular symptoms, many also have gastrointestinal problems, such as loose motions and nausea,” said Dr Tulara.
Dr Harshad Limaye, senior consultant, Infectious Diseases, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, has been seeing approximately 12-15 patients between 25 to 50 years daily. He observed that the spread of infection is also causing anxiety among people, as some symptoms overlap with those of Covid-19.
“People are seeking immediate medical care driven by fear. However, there is no reason for panic as almost all patients are recovering within three to four days with Tamiflu treatment. To prevent the spread of the flu, it is important to continue wearing triple-layer surgical masks and maintaining good hand hygiene,” said Dr Limaye.
Getting them young
Paediatricians are also seeing an increase in the number of children coming to the OPD. Dr Behzad Bhandari, Consultant Internal Medicine, SRCC Hospital-Haji Ali, said, “Almost 70 per cent are coming to the OPD suffering from cold, fever, breathing issues, throat pain, cough and even loose motions and vomiting. Several have tested positive for influenza, while many remain undiagnosed viral infections,” he said.
Dr Bhandari has also blamed the rising pollution levels and fluctuations in temperature levels taking a toll on the immune system of children and adults. “Wearing a mask is a preventive measure, especially when going to crowded places to avoid influenza risk,” he concluded.