India on Thursday, 6 April, recorded 5,335 new cases of coronavirus infection - nearly 20 percent higher than the day before, according to the Union Health Ministry data. The new COVID-19 variant XBB 1.16 is said to be the reason behind the spike.
With this, the active caseload has risen to 25,587, the Health Ministry data said. The daily positivity rate is recorded at 3.32 percent and the weekly positivity rate stands at 2.89 percent.
Is it COVID-19? Is it H3N2? Is it seasonal fever? Or is it something else?
What is the new COVID-19 variant?
A new variant XBB 1.16 is driving up India’s COVID-19 cases. First detected in the country in January, XBB.1.16 has replaced other circulating sub-variants in India and has shown indications of enhanced infectivity and perhaps increased pathogenicity in laboratory tests.
According to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, XBB 1.16 cases have so far been reported in:
Should you be concerned about this new variant?
On the one hand, Dr Randeep Guleria, former AIIMS director, said:
“Following Covid-appropriate behaviour can help to contain the spread of infection. And also most of the cases are not severe; so there is no need to panic as of now.”
"India should be testing people for respiratory infections that make people sick enough to come to hospitals. It should not just be focused on SARS-COV-2. We should be looking at what else is causing respiratory diseases. We know that there is a lot of influenza out there; we know that there are other respiratory pathogens as well. So, we should be tracking everything and not just SARS-COV-2. If you call that endemic, then SARS-COV-2 is endemic."Gagandeep Kang, Virologist, told The Quint, earlier in January
How do you differentiate between XBB 1.16 and H3N2 virus?
The symptoms of XBB 1.16 include:
Runny nose and cough
Abdominal pain and discomfort
However, COVID-19 has been manifesting itself as long COVID in patients even after recovery.
On the other hand, the symptoms of H3N2 include:
Cough and sore throat
What about H3N2? Should you be concerned about that?
According to media reports, nine people have so far succumbed to the H3N2 virus. While vaccines are available against the flu, cases have still been rising of the Influenza subtype A.
Though experts say that most people can recover at home through medication and rest, people who have co-morbidities or are older in age can be at an increased risk.
How to get tested for H3N2 virus?
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the sample for laboratory testing of H3N2 is similar to the sample collected for COVID-19 test – a nasal swab and pharyngeal swab. The method of testing for H3N2 is also similar to COVID-19 testing, that is RT-PCR test.
How do you protect yourself from both of these viruses?
To protect yourself from H3N2,
Wash your hands frequently
Wear masks in public
Touching your face
Self-medicating (Antibiotics won’t work since H3N2 is caused by a virus)
Prevention from COVID-19 can also be done through these same measures while also following COVID appropriate behaviour such as social distancing and isolating yourself if you face any of these symptoms.