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Hyderabad: India has seen a surge in H3N2 cases. Every second individual is suffering from a protracted post-viral cough, shortness of breath, and sneezing.

The majority of these cases are caused by the H3N2 virus, a kind of influenza A virus that is severe but not as widespread as the lethal H1N1 virus.

What is the H3N2 virus?

The influenza A virus (H3N2) is a kind of influenza virus. It is a respiratory viral infection that causes disease. In humans, this subtype of influenza A virus was discovered in 1968.

What are the symptoms of the H3N2 virus?

The symptoms of the H3N2 virus include cough, runny nose or congested nose, sore throat, headaches, body aches, fever, chills, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and breathlessness.

The virus is derived from two types of influenza A virus protein strains: hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). HA contains over 18 variants, each numbered H1 to H18, whereas NA has 11 subtypes, each numbered N1 to N11. The H3N2 virus is a cross between two protein strains of the influenza A virus.

The virus is most lethal to young children, old people, and people who have ongoing medical conditions. Pregnant women are also at high risk.

Pregnant mothers and their newborns are more vulnerable to influenza complications. Pregnant women are also more likely than non-pregnant women of reproductive age to be hospitalized with flu.

“Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy render pregnant women more prone to serious sickness from influenza. Vaccination has been demonstrated to minimize the incidence of flu-related acute respiratory illness in pregnant women in half. A flu vaccine can reduce a pregnant woman's chance of being hospitalized with the flu by 40% on average” said Dr. Lakshmi Chirumamilla, fertility specialist, at Nova IVF fertility, Banjara Hills.

“Pregnant mothers who get a flu vaccine helps to protect their newborns from flu disease during the first few months after birth when they are too young to be vaccinated. Flu vaccines have been safely administered to millions of pregnant women over the last several decades. Women who are pregnant should get a flu shot, but not the live attenuated vaccine (LAIV or nasal spray). Even if they are breastfeeding, postpartum women can receive any type of immunization. There is a lot of evidence that flu vaccines can be given to pregnant women safely” said Dr. Sivaranjani Santosh, Pediatrician at Magna Centres.

Why should pregnant people get a flu shot?

Influenza is more likely to produce sickness that requires hospitalization in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women of reproductive age. Influenza may potentially be dangerous to a developing fetus. Fever, a common influenza symptom, has been linked in several studies to neural tube abnormalities and other negative effects for a growing infant. Being vaccinated while pregnant can also help protect a baby after delivery from influenza (because antibodies are passed to a developing baby during pregnancy). Individuals who get the influenza vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding also generate antibodies against influenza that they can transfer with their infants through their breast milk.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu

The first and most crucial step in protecting against the flu is to get the influenza (flu) vaccine. Pregnant women should receive a flu shot rather than the nasal spray flu vaccine. Flu vaccinations administered during pregnancy protect both the pregnant mother and the baby from the virus.

Mothers who have been inoculated can protect newborns against flu sickness for the first three months after birth when they are too young to be immunized. The influenza vaccine can be administered at any stage of pregnancy. Every year, September and October are ideal months to be vaccinated. Early immunization (e.g., in July or August) may be considered for women in their third trimester during those months.

Is it safe for pregnant people and their developing babies to get a flu shot?

Yes. Flu vaccines have been given to millions of people with a great safety record over many years. A significant body of scientific evidence supports the safety of the flu vaccine in pregnant women and their babies.

Can flu vaccination result in miscarriage?

Many studies have found that pregnant women who received flu vaccines had no increased risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). Doctors advise pregnant women to obtain a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy since the flu is dangerous for pregnant women and a flu vaccine can avoid serious illness, including hospitalization, during pregnancy.

What side effects have pregnant people experienced from flu shots?

The most common side effects that pregnant women suffer are the same as those that other people experience. They are generally mild and consist of:

- Soreness, redness, and/or swelling as a result of the shot

- Headache

- Fever

- Muscle aches

- Nausea

- Fatigue

- If adverse effects occur, they usually begin shortly after the shot is administered and last for 1-2 days.

Flu shots, like other injections, can sometimes cause fainting. Flu injections can occasionally cause major issues, such as severe allergic responses. Anyone who is allergic to any of the vaccination ingredients should avoid getting shot.

Who should not get a flu shot?

Anyone who is allergic to any of the ingredients or components of a particular vaccine (other than egg protein) should not receive that vaccine. Individuals who have had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of influenza vaccination should generally not be vaccinated, depending upon what sort of influenza vaccine caused the allergic reaction. It is critical to address egg, drug, and vaccination allergies with your healthcare practitioner.

Can pregnant people with egg allergies get vaccinated?

Those with severe egg allergies can get any age-appropriate influenza vaccine that is generally appropriate for their age and health status. For pregnant women, either an age-appropriate IIV4 or RIV4 (for those 18 and older) can be utilized. LAIV4 should not be taken when pregnant. Suppose an egg-free vaccine (i.e., quadrivalent recombinant vaccine [RIV4] or quadrivalent cell-based vaccine [ccIIV4]) is not used. In that case, people with a history of severe egg allergy (those who have had any symptom other than hives after exposure to egg) should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a health care provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.

What about thimerosal in flu vaccines? Should pregnant people get thimerosal-free flu vaccines?

A small amount of thimerosal in vaccines, according to doctors, does not cause harm. Those who want to avoid thimerosal can get a thimerosal-free flu vaccine.

Can a breastfeeding person get a flu vaccine?

Yes. Breastfeeding mothers should get an annual flu vaccine to protect themselves against the flu. Being vaccinated lowers the likelihood of parents becoming ill and transmitting the flu to their children, therefore protecting their children against the flu. This is especially critical for children under the age of six months, who are too young to receive the flu vaccine. Individuals who get the flu vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding produce antibodies against the flu, which they can pass on to their babies through breast milk.

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