The Bihar government has sounded an alert following the detection of an H3N2 influenza virus case over the weekend. The development came even as the virus sub-varient caused two deaths in the country last week. Meanwhile, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had written to the states and union territories, voicing concern about the surge in influenza-like illnesses and other severe respiratory ailments. 

What is Hong Kong Flu?

H3N2 Influenza is a subtype of the Influenza A virus first detected in people in July 2011. The virus had first been identified a year earlier in pigs in the US. In recent days it has been spreading rapidly through India and has caused nearly 500 cases. 

According to the Union Health Ministry Karnataka and Haryana have confirmed one death each from H3N2 influenza so far. H3N2 has been the dominant subtype followed by H1N1. Both these subtypes belong to Influenza 'A' type.

The reference to Hong Kong - while not part of official nomenclature - comes from the 1968 flu pandemic that first broke out in the area. The Hong Kong influenza pandemic lasted till around 1970 and caused between one and four million deaths. It is believed to have been caused by the an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus.

What are the symptoms of H3N2?

The symptoms can be similar to other cold and flu infections and the list includes persistent cough, headache, fever and sinus-related issues. While officials have repeatedly noted that the disease is usually mild for most patients, one should visit the hospital if they are facing difficulty breathing, have low blood pressure, high rate of breathing, bluish lips, seizures or confusion.

What precautions can be taken?

The Indian Council of Medical Research has urged people to wash hands with soap and water if symptomatic, wear masks and avoid crowded places, and cover mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing. The apex health research body also advised people to take plenty of liquids, avoid touching eyes and nose, and take paracetamol for fever and bodyache.

It also urged people to not shake hands or use other contact greetings, spit in public, take antibiotics or other medicines without consulting doctor or eat together while sitting close to others.


(With inputs from agencies)

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