In the midst of a surge in virus cases, how to distinguish between H3N2, Covid-19, H1N1, cold and flu?

India is seeing a spike in viral infections due to H3N2, COVID-19, and swine flu or H1N1. While most cases are reported to be due to H3N2, data shows swine flu and Covid cases are also rising in the country. Covid cases stand at 4,623 with an active caseload of 0.01 per cent, according to the latest Health Department data. It also noted that as of February 28, 2023, a total of 955 H1N1 cases had been reported, most from Tamil Nadu (545), Maharashtra (170), Gujarat (74), Kerala (42) and Punjab (28). Meanwhile, from January 2 to March 5, 2023, 451 cases of H3N2 variants were reported in Karnataka and Haryana, each with 2 deaths, according to the Labor Ministry. The latest case of H3N2 was detected in Assam.

Given that they are all viral respiratory diseases, how can we differentiate between them and seek treatment?

Above all, H1N1, formerly known as swine flu, is an influenza-like virus that causes illness in pigs. In contrast, flu or colds occur quite frequently during the change of season and are often harmless. “There are more than 200-300 viruses that can cause a cold. Within each virus type there can be subtypes and variants. Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses, type A and type B influenza viruses, etc.,” said Dr. Anantha Padmanabha, Specialist in Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Nagarbhavi, told in a previous interaction. Covid-19, on the other hand, is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is considered highly contagious.

“The current distribution and intensity of the smoke, particularly its variant H3N2, are of great concern. Medically, it’s a double whammy Covid-19 cases have resurfaced,” said Dr. Manisha Arora, Senior Consultant in Internal Medicine at the Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.

While some experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without special treatment, others may become seriously ill and require medical attention, particularly the elderly and those with weak immunity, or who have comorbidities.

dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director and Chief of Pulmonology, Fortis Hospitals, Faridabad said that all viral respiratory diseases have similar symptoms. “Clinically it is difficult to distinguish whether it is Covid or flu. However, there are some features that can help distinguish them,” said Dr. yeah

*H3N2 can cause hoarseness in voice, while in Covid-19 symptoms begin with fever or nasal congestion.
*In case of flu, body ache or myalgia is too much
*Flu causes severe dry cough that lasts longer than usual (up to 3 weeks)

flu Covid tests must be carried out (Express photo by Amit Mehra)


Both Covid-19 and swine flu are diagnosed using a nasopharynx swab, an oropharynx swab and a nasopharynx wash. Rapid tests are also available for both Covid-19 and the flu.

What to do

Experts recommend medication to relieve flu symptoms such as fever, cough and constipation. These include pain relievers, nebulizers, cough suppressants, and other decongestants.

Adequate rest and rest is recommended at home with simple home-made, fresh foods and proper hydration.

dr Jha recommended:

* Follow a covid-appropriate behavior that also protects you from the flu.
*In turn, annual influenza vaccination helps reduce flu-related complications.
*Drink plenty of water and avoid unnecessary antibiotics, said Dr. yeah dr Arora agreed that due to a lack of awareness, people take antibiotics, which are not effective against the flu because it is a viral disease and not a bacterial infection. “In addition, taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to antibiotic resistance and other harmful side effects. Additional secondary infections, diagnosed by well-trained doctors, only need antibiotics,” noted Dr. Arora.

The World Health Organization also recommends that the most effective way to prevent viral infection is to get vaccinated and follow preventive measures: “Keeping at least 1 meter distance from others, wearing a well-fitting mask when you distance holding is not possible, avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places and environments, open windows and doors to keep rooms well ventilated, and wash your hands frequently.”

It also advises people should heed the advice of “your local authorities on obtaining influenza and Covid-19 vaccines”.

notice that flu viruses, including H3N2, can mutate and evolve rapidly, making it difficult to develop a vaccine that provides complete protection against all strains, said Dr. Arora that vaccinations are nevertheless a crucial tool in the fight against infectious diseases. “It may particularly help those who are at higher risk of serious illnesses, such as young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems,” said Dr. Arora.

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