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Importance of H3N2 diagnosis

Although the summer is approaching and temperatures begin to rise, the flu season is still here, and many people have started experiencing symptoms of the influenza virus.

This year, the H3N2 strain is one of the most prevalent types of influenza circulating in the community. However, instead of seeking medical advice and getting tested for the virus, many individuals turn to self-medication, which can lead to more harm than good.

Self-medication, which refers to using over the counter (OTC) drugs without consulting a healthcare professional, has become a common practice in our society. Although OTC drugs can alleviate symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, they do not target the root cause of the illness. Moreover, self-medication can lead to inappropriate dosing, adverse reactions, and interactions with other drugs, especially in people with underlying medical conditions.

The importance of getting tested for H3N2 influenza instead of relying on self-medication. She says testing is the only way to diagnose the virus and accurately determine the appropriate treatment plan. In this article, we will explore the benefits of testing and the risks associated with self-medication.

Benefits of testing for H3N2 influenza
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), H3N2 is a subtype of Influenza A virus, which majorly affects humans. One of the many outcomes of this virus is persistent cough, a common respiratory symptom. H3N2 infection is contagious and spreads through droplet infections like other seasonal flu. The symptoms of H3N2 include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat with cough, headache, fever, chills, body ache, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The duration of shedding of influenza A (H3N2) virus is unknown. Therefore, until data are available, the estimated duration of viral shedding is based upon seasonal influenza virus infection.

Infected persons should be assumed to be contagious up to 7 days from illness onset. Infected persons can shed viruses and are potentially infectious from the day prior to illness onset until resolution of fever. Some persons who are infected might shed virus and be contagious for longer periods (e.g., young infants and immunocompromised persons).

The correct diagnosis therefore becomes more important so that the patient can take adequate precautions to prevent its spread to his immediate contacts.

Samples for testing for H3N2 include nasopharyngeal swab, nasal aspirate or wash, or a combined nasopharyngeal swab with oropharyngeal swab. If these specimens cannot be collected, a nasal swab or oropharyngeal swab is acceptable. 

The results can be available within a few hours, and the test can accurately diagnose the virus with high specificity and sensitivity.

One of the main advantages of testing is that it helps healthcare professionals determine the appropriate treatment plan for the patient. Antiviral treatment becomes important if the patient is hospitalized, has severe or progressive illness, or the patient has an underlying condition that places them at increased risk for influenza-related complications, even if they test negative for influenza.

Moreover, testing can help identify individuals at high risk of complications from influenza, such as young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. These individuals may require hospitalisation or more aggressive treatment, and early diagnosis can prevent the progression of the illness.

Risks of self-medication
Self-medication, on the other hand, poses several risks to individuals who use it to treat H3N2 influenza. Firstly, OTC drugs do not target the root cause of the illness, and their use can mask the symptoms, leading to a delay in diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Moreover, OTC drugs can cause adverse reactions and interactions with other medications, especially in individuals with underlying medical conditions. Furthermore, self-medication can lead to the development of drug-resistant viruses, as the inappropriate use of antiviral drugs can contribute to the emergence of resistant strains.

It is therefore important that people suffering from symptoms, get themselves tested for H3N2. This will not only aid in appropriate diagnosis, but also guide the treating clinician on deciding the right treatment protocols. Testing also helps the patient in taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of disease amongst his immediate contacts.

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