Amid an increase in the cases of the H3N2 virus, health experts have urged the elderly and those with comorbid conditions to be cautious and avoid crowded place. Former AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria said that this virus mutates every year during this time and spreads through droplets.

"I would really say that people should celebrate Holi but they should be careful especially the elderly and those who have underlying comorbid conditions like chronic respiratory diseases, heart problems, patients have kidney problems or dialysis, they need to be careful about going into a crowded place and getting exposure," Dr. Guleria told news agency ANI. He is currently chairman of the Institute of Internal Medicine & Respiratory and Sleep Medicine and Director Medical Education at Medanta.

"We had a pandemic many years ago of H1N1. That circulating strain of that virus is now H3N2 and therefore it is a normal influenza strain. But we are seeing more cases because as the virus mutates a little bit, the immunity that we had against the virus becomes a little less and therefore people who are susceptible tend to get infection more easily," Dr Guleria explained.

Influenza H3N2 Symptoms
According to Dr Guleria, in a number of cases of influenza, symptoms like fever, sore throat cough, body aches and runny nose history are typically visible.

The Fear
While there have been more H3N2 influenza cases recently, hospitalisation has not increased significantly, Dr. Guleria said.

What is Antigenic drift?

According to Dr. Guleria, this virus, known as H3N2, comes from the family of influenza viruses, based upon its various subtypes, mutates or undergoes minor changes every year, a process known as antigenic drift.Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that Influenza A subtype H3N2 as the major cause of rising respiratory illness in India. ICMR also said that this subtype appears to cause more hospitalizations than other influenza subtypes.

Here are the highlights of what Dr. Guleria said:

  1. As is the time of the year when the weather changes which ultimately increases the chance of getting influenza
  2. The fact that we have now come back to a non-COVID state where we are not wearing masks, we're having a lot of crowding. This is also allowing the virus to spread more easily.
  3. Wash hands frequently and also observe physical distancing if we are a more susceptible population

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