Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that affects millions of people worldwide each year. The H3N2 strain of the flu virus appears to be leading to more severe Illness and hospitalizations, especially in elderly populations. Understanding its effects on this group is crucial for preventing and treating the disease.

Flu has caused several out breaks and pandemics throughout history.

H3N2 influenza, also known as the Hong Kong flu was responsible for the 1968 pandemic which lead to over a million deaths globally. It is a subtype of influenza A, which is known for causing severe illness and higher mortality rates than influenza B or C.

H3N2 primarily affects the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and body aches. In many people it causes a minor illness from which they recover soon. However, elderly populations who are affected by H3N2 Influenza are likely to develop complications such as Pneumonia or Respiratory  failure, leading to hospitalizations. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) USA, over 70% of flu-related hospitalizations and 90% of flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65.

Elderly populations are particularly vulnerable to the H3N2 influenza virus because their immune system may not respond as effectively to the virus as younger adults. As we age, our immune system weakens, making us more susceptible to infections, and our bodies may not produce as many antibodies to fight off the virus.

The H3N2 influenza virus can also exacerbate existing health conditions in older adults, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and diabetes, leading to hospitalizations.

To protect themselves from the H3N2 influenza virus, the elderly population should take several preventative measures, including getting an annual influenza vaccine, washing their hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people, covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying home if they are sick.

Understanding its effects on this group and taking preventive measures is crucial for preventing and treating the disease. Early treatment with antiviral medications is also essential for reducing the risk of complications and improving outcomes for those infected. However, these medications are most effective when given within the first 48 hours of symptom onset. By following these simple steps, we can help protect our elderly loved ones from the menace of H3N2 influenza.

Dr. Kanishka Kavuri
Fellowship in Interventional Pulmonology (UK)
Consultant Interventional Pulmonology

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