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H3N2 Virus: H3N2 cases on rise: Would antibiotics help?

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01/7​H3N2 virus has claimed 7 lives in the country​

As per reports, a total of seven people have died due to the infection caused by the H3N2 virus.

The national capital, Delhi, has also seen a surge in H3N2 cases recently. An uptick in ICU admissions was seen mostly in those who have comorbidities and those older than 75 years of age, reports have said.

“We are seeing an increased number of ICU admissions with H3N2 viral pneumonia, mostly in patients with severe comorbidities and older than 75 years of age,” Dr G C Khilnani, chairman, PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, told TOI.

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02/7​Would antibiotics help against the H3N2 virus?​

Antibiotics are only effective in case of a bacterial infection and are completely ineffective against H3N2. Notably, Influenza A virus subtype H3N2 is a subtype of viruses that causes influenza, explains Dr Manoj Singh, Senior Chest & Critical Care Specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Ahmedabad.

In the same line, Dr Rajiv Dang, Senior Director and HOD Internal Medicine and Medical Director, Max Hospital, Gurugram says “no antibiotics will not help fighting against an ailment that is caused by Viruses. Antibiotics are preferred for bacterial infections, thus in cases of H3N2, antibiotics should not be used.”

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03/7​What people need to understand before self prescribing antibiotics?​

“Many people presume that antibiotics can cure anything, which they often view on the internet and self medicate. This practice should be completely avoided, and should refrain from starting any antibiotics on their own,” says Dr Dang; the doctor stresses on limited knowledge around antibiotics and why this is harmful.

“Unlike COVID-19, where many people started taking Azithromycin and Doxycycline, we strongly discourage the habit of people buying antibiotics over the counter without consulting a doctor,” says Dr Singh.

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04/7​What are the side effects of taking antibiotics without doctor recommendation?​

Self prescribing antibiotics do damage the body and health experts agree on that.

“With the prolonged use of antibiotics, many patients have become anti-antibiotic that even the primary diseases have become difficult to treat and transform into fatal diseases. Some of the most common side effects are that people often take underdose, for under duration, that may lead to antibiotic resistance, without providing any relief and may also lead to higher rate of infection spread as the infection may not be treated,” says Dr Dang.

Dr Singh says there could be multiple side effects of taking antibiotics without consulting a doctor. The side effects include a deterioration in health, increasing viraemia, setting in of organ-specific complications, and late detection of the primary pathogen.

Antibiotics are the most common antimicrobial substances that are actively used to fight bacteria by killing or suppressing their growth. However, with the advent of technology and easy access to information, many people are now commonly taking these drugs without a proper prescription, which has led to a rise in the number of cases related to antimicrobial resistance and side effects, says Dr. Bindumathi P L, Sr. Consultant – Internal Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital. The common issues, the expert explains, one is likely to face due to over consumption of antibiotics are: gut flora upset, diarrhea, fungal infection, drug interaction, and antimicrobial resistance.

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05/7​When should you take antibiotics?​

“All infections do not require antibiotics; they may be self-limiting, such as a mild cold, cough, or fever lasting 1 or 2 days, and should not be treated with antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Antibiotics may not be required for simple diarrhea, stomach upset, or loose stools unless it is complicated by bacterial infection. Dengue is also a viral infection that does not require antibiotics. Only symptomatic treatments necessitate the preceding steps; control of fever and hydration are required. Relevant cultures of blood, stool, urine, or pus, depending on the case, should be sent before starting antibiotics,” the Dr. Bindumathi P L explains.

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06/7​What should be people careful about while consulting a doctor amid rising cases of H3N2?​

When dealing with a virus that seems to be mild but can have a life threatening impact, experts share certain insights on how to get it treated correctly.

“Unlike dengue and chikungunya, H3N2 has a clear-cut treatment and a good response to antivirals. So, prompt consultation with a specialist, early initiation of anti-virals (Oseltamivir), and strict bed rest is the key to making your health better. People should avoid mass gatherings for at least 2-3 weeks in this triple season (fluctuating mercury-hot during the day, cold during the night and rains) and those with even simple flu should restrict mobility and follow the mask mandate,” explains Dr Singh.

Amid the rising cases of H3N2, those referring to the doctors should definitely follow all the cough etiquettes, wear a mask, maintain self-hygiene and should discuss all the symptoms with the doctor so that prompt treatment regime is started, suggests Dr Dang.

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07/7​The key is to prevent H3N2 virus from spreading​

The best way to stop the mass circulation of H3N2 virus is to discard the contaminated source.

Health experts suggest not to touch the face, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Therefore hands should be cleaned and sanitized regularly.

One should also avoid being in contact with those who are infected and even those who show symptoms. People who are infected should avoid going outside.

Wearing of masks, which was very crucial during COVID pandemic, can also help protect against H3N2 as it cuts down the chances of the virus entering the body.

Timely medication can also reduce the spread of the virus from infected people to healthy individuals.

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