Can H3N2 Virus Influenza Turn Into The Next COVID-19 Pandemic?

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

In the year 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus started spreading across China. The country reported its first case in September when a woman in Wuhan tested positive. Soon, it was not just China which was witnessing the rise of the deadliest virus in the history of mankind, the world started confirming cases. The deadly and highly transmissible virus took over 100 countries in its grip within a span of 10 days. Looking the at the trends, the World Health Organisation (WHO), termed the virus outbreak a 'Pandemic'. It took over 3 years, for the countries to bring the situation under control. In these over 36 months, the virus took away millions of lives and left billions more affected. The scary pictures from the virus outbreak were not even faded completely when India, reported a surge in viral infection cases.

It is usually a very common phenomenon to witness a rise in Influenza virus during this time of the year. But, 2023 was not a usual year. The country witnessed the worst Influenza virus outbreak at the beginning of the month. Several cases reported from the country showed how dangerously the virus is spreading, and taking states in its grip. Currently, the one variant which is wreaking havoc in India, and driving maximum flu cases in the country is the H3N2 Influenza virus. As the worst memories associated with virus outbreaks are still so fresh in the minds of the people, the sudden spike in the cases of the H3N2 influenza virus is making people wonder if it will become 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 respiratory system of the body, making it difficult for the patient to breathe properly. The mode of transmission of both viruses is also the same -- they transmit from one body to the other through the air. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets carrying the virus can reach the respiratory organs of a fit person, and enter through the nose, and eyes.

Mild COVID-19 symptoms are also similar to mild H3N2 infection symptoms. They both cause colds, coughs, fever, and body aches. However, there is one difference in the symptoms of the two viruses -- an Influenza virus infection like 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 they also share the same way of spreading from one individual to another. They also share similar symptoms. Does this mean that having had COVID-19 puts someone at a higher risk of contracting H3N2 or that the occurrence of the two is linked in any way? Not really, as of date experts believe that H3N2 is less dangerous than COVID-19.

COVID Vs H3N2 Symptoms

Experts say that there is no need for anyone to panic at the moment. Although H3N2 is spreading rapidly in India, there are very less chances of it being turned into a pandemic like COVID. The reason behind saying this lies in the symptoms that the two viruses cause. While COVID led to severe lung infections and pneumonia-like symptoms including breathlessness and chest pain, the H3N2 virus limits itself to only causing signs such as high fever and cough. According to the reports, about 27% presented with breathlessness, 16% with wheezing, 16% with pneumonia, and 6% with seizures. Roughly 10% of patients required oxygen, and 7% required ICU care. Which is very minimal when compared to COVID-19. During the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak in India, the virus was furious and a maximum number of patients ended up in the hospital with a drop in their oxygen levels.

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