Another major public health concern is creating waves of terror among people. Cases of the H3N2 virus have been increasing at a rapid rate in the country, with a total of seven deaths thus far. Mumbai is believed to be the worst hit so far, with several cases reported in other Indian cities as well. If reports are to be believed, people with an underlying disease, elderly people, children, and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to the H3N2 virus.
Healthshots asked Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Consultant Obstetrician, Gynecologist, Fertility and IVF Expert at The Nurture clinic, Delhi, about the effects of H3N2 on pregnant women and how they can protect themselves against the infection.
Is the H3N2 virus dangerous for pregnant women?
For the unversed, flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A viruses that bring in a wide range of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and respiratory distress. The H3N2 influenza virus is a non-human influenza virus that circulates in pigs and can infect humans, as per the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control CDC). It has been associated with severe illness and increased mortality rates.
Also Read: Symptoms of H3N2 virus
Dr Bajaj points out, “The subtype of influenza A virus is of particular concern for pregnant women. Expecting mothers are at an increased risk of severe illness and complications from the flu because their immune system is suppressed during pregnancy. While this suppression is necessary to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking the fetus, it also leaves pregnant women more vulnerable to infections like the flu.”
Complications of the H3N2 virus on pregnant women
Since pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting infected by the H3N2 virus, there are certain complications that they might face, including:
Flu vaccine is your best defence against H3N2 virus
Just like any other virus, getting a vaccine available to fight the virus is your best defence. It’s no different in the case of the H3N2 virus! Dr Bajaj encourages pregnant women to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn babies. “The flu vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy and can help reduce the risk of complications from the flu. Pregnant women who receive the shot also pass on the protective antibodies to their babies thereby protecting them from the viral infection” advises the expert.
Pregnant women who develop flu-like symptoms should be treated with antiviral medications as soon as possible. These medications can help reduce the severity of the illness and prevent complications. Pregnant women who are at high risk of complications from the flu, such as those with underlying medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, should be treated with antiviral medications even in the absence of noticeable symptoms, she adds.
Other precautionary steps pregnant women should take
While getting the flu vaccine is necessary, pregnant women also need to take other steps to protect themselves from the flu. Here are some steps you should take:
- Practice good hygiene
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Refrain from touching their face
- Seek prompt medical care if you develop flu-like symptoms.
A word from the expert!
In conclusion, the H3N2 influenza virus can have serious implications for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Pregnant women should take steps to protect themselves from the flu, including getting the flu vaccine, practising good hygiene, and seeking medical care promptly if they develop flu-like symptoms. With proper care and precautions, pregnant women can reduce their risk of complications from the flu and ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.