Is it possible to get both Covid and H3N2 influenza at once? Effects on symptoms
In India, it is the season for respiratory illnesses, and after 451 instances of H3N2 and a few flu-related fatalities, minor cases of Covid-19 have also been found. This calls for increased preventive efforts and the need of immunization for these dreadful diseases. Since Covid and H3N2 are both respiratory viral illnesses with similar symptoms, is it conceivable to get both at the same time? If so, how will the symptoms change? The coexistence of the two viruses, according to experts, is extremely likely, and if it does, susceptible populations may have more severe symptoms. Antibiotics and antivirals are not recommended for those with dual infections, and symptomatic care is adequate. It is advisable to be tested as soon as you have symptoms like weakness, fever, sore throat, cough, body discomfort, or loose stools, among others.
"H3N2 and Covid are both respiratory viral illnesses. Viral illnesses are contagious, much like bacteria. Yet, the symptoms are the same in both situations; myalgia, a moderate to high temperature, loose stools, and significant weakness are all indicators of viral illnesses. After doing a clinical screening, we may send a nasopharyngeal swab to confirm the diagnosis. Every viral illness may be treated conservatively by just treating the symptoms. Although proper fluids and relaxation are essential for recovering from viral prodrome, antibiotics are not necessary. In around 1% of instances, a severe headache and shortness of breath may progress to respiratory failure and, ultimately, hospitalization. The hospital decides on the course of therapy based on further examination "the Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon's Dr. Arun Chowdary Kotaru, Consultant in Respiratory/Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine.
"SARS CoV-2 and H3N2 influenza are respiratory viruses that have similar clinical symptoms, risk factors for severe disease, mechanism of transmission (droplets or aerosols), route of infection (inhalational route), and clinical presentations. Any person has a very high chance of contracting both infections simultaneously (also known as co-infection), either from a patient who already has both infections or from two different patients "says Dr. Rohit Kumar Garg, Consultant at Amrita Hospital in Faridabad's Department of Infectious Diseases.
"There is a ton of proof that individuals may test positive concurrently for, example, COVID and the flu or the flu and RSV. The monsoon season (June to September) is often when influenza virus circulation in India reaches its height, with subsequent peaks occurring throughout the winter (November-February). H3N2 and H1N1 influenza virus infections are now on the rise in India "says Dr. Sunita Kapoor, the clinic's director and consultant pathologist.
"Despite the very low likelihood of contracting both COVID and H3N2 at the same time, the illness is seldom acquired. Higher risk groups include those with weakened immune systems and those on steroids or immunosuppressive medications. The risk is also greater in patients with comorbid conditions including liver, renal, or cardiac disease, as well as those who have cancer or have had organ transplants "Dr. Ashok K. Rajput, Consultant in Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at CK Birla Hospital in Delhi, adds.
Does co-infection with H3N2 and COVID-19 alter symptoms?
According to available data, Dr. Garg notes that while the typical symptoms, such as a high fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhoea, remain the same, patients who are simultaneously suffering from both infections tend to experience more severe symptoms.
"Furthermore, variables including immunity, comorbidities, vaccination status, and others affect how serious an infection is. That suggests that individuals who have received the influenza and Covid vaccinations and/or do not have any risk factors are unlikely to get a serious illness even if they are co-infected "Dr. Garg explains.
"The symptoms are comparable to those of H3N2 or COVID and include fever, runny nose, cough, cold, and sore throat. To determine the precise number of H3N2 or COVID patients, however, it is difficult since the test rate for these symptoms has decreased (less than 5%). Individuals should get the influenza vaccine, but it's crucial to realize that there's still a chance of contracting the disease even after receiving the shot. It is advised against giving an individual antibiotics if they have symptoms like fever, cough, or cold "Dr. Rajput explains.
"Both viral illnesses are accompanied with stuffy noses, sneezing, sore throats, and a loss of smell. Again, frequent symptoms of both Covid and H3N2 influenza include earache, nausea, and diarrhea "Dr. Sunita explains.
How to determine whether you are infected with both Covid and H3N2 influenza
RT-PCR assays (available separately and in combination) performed on nasopharyngeal swab samples may be used to identify infections with the SARS CoV-2 and H3N2 viruses.
"In the majority of patients with dual infections, symptomatic care alone suffices and no antivirals are needed. Just a tiny percentage of patients, especially those who are unvaccinated, have comorbid conditions, have inadequate immunity, etc., need to be treated with specialized antivirals for both the H3N2 influenza virus and the SARS CoV-2 virus. Last but not least, in order to avoid becoming very ill, it is crucial to see a doctor for early diagnosis, clinical condition evaluation, and triage for hospitalization and treatment. Also, early detection and preventative actions (facial masks, coughing manners, and hand cleanliness) would assist to shield loved ones from contracting such diseases "He claims.
"Antipyretics are used to treat fever, while anti-inflammatory medications like antitussives are used to treat cough and cold symptoms. But, antibiotics may be used as needed if the patient has the flu or already has a lower respiratory tract infection like COPD or bronchiectasis "Dr. Rajput explains.