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Is H3N2 Deadlier Than Covid-19? Here's What You Need to Know!



The ongoing struggle against the Covid-19 pandemic has persisted for over a year, causing widespread concern over its potential dangers. Many individuals have inquired about the virus's relative risk level compared to other viral infections, including the H3N2.


The H3N2 influenza virus strain has been around since the 1960s. It has caused various epidemics and pandemics over the years. Yet, Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus discovered for the first time in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It has since spread globally and has caused a significant number of deaths. This article will compare the two viruses and see which is deadlier.


What is H3N2?


H3N2 is a variety of influenza virus that has been present among humans since the late 1960s. It is often called the "Hong Kong flu" due to its roots in Asia. Like other strains of the flu, H3N2 can instigate various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, and can be lethal in some instances.


Symptoms of H3N2


Individuals infected with H3N2 may experience various symptoms commonly associated with the flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or congested nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. In severe cases, H3N2 can also result in complications like pneumonia, and bronchitis.


Treatment for H3N2


The standard treatment for H3N2 typically involves:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Staying hydrated.
  • Symptomatic treatment for fever and cough.

In more severe cases or for individuals with underlying health conditions, antiviral medications may be prescribed to help reduce the length of the illness and lower the chances of complications. No antibiotics are indicated for these patients.


What is Covid-19?


Infectious respiratory sickness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also known as Covid-19. It was initially found in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since spread fast worldwide, producing a global pandemic.


Symptoms of Covid-19


The manifestations of Covid-19 can display an extensive range of variations, ranging from trifling to severe. They may encompass pyrexia, coughing, dyspnoea, weariness, myalgia, cephalalgia, loss of gustatory or olfactory senses, pharyngitis, congestion, and enteritis.


Treatment for Covid-19


Management of Covid-19 involves primarily supportive measures aimed at symptom control and averting complications. Severe cases may require hospitalization and necessitate mechanical ventilation or supplementary oxygen to mitigate respiratory distress. Multiple interventions, including antiviral drugs and monoclonal antibodies, are presently undergoing investigation for their effectiveness in treating Covid-19.


Which virus is deadlier?


Comparison of mortality rates for H3N2 and Covid-19


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that during the 2017-2018 flu season, H3N2 influenza caused the deaths of about 0.4% of infected people or about 1 in 250. Conversely, the mortality rate of Covid-19 is estimated to range from 1-2% and is potentially more significant in some demographic subgroups.

The reality that death rates can change for many reasons is a fact that must not be ignored. These causes include, but are not limited to, age, pre-existing medical issues, and access to healthcare. Advanced age and underlying health ailments can predispose individuals to a greater risk of experiencing severe illness and dying from both pathogens.


Comparison between H3N2 and COVID-19


Symptom H3N2 Influenza COVID-19
Fever Common, high grade (over 100°F or 37.8°C) Common, but can range from mild to severe
Cough Common, can be severe Common
Fatigue Common, can be severe Common, can be extreme
Body aches Common, can be severe Common, can be moderate
Headache Common, can be severe Common, can be moderate
Sore throat Common, can be severe Less common
Runny or stuffy nose Common Less common
Shortness of breath Rare, but can occur in severe cases Common, can be severe
Loss of taste or smell Uncommon



It is important to note that both H3N2 and Covid-19 can present with varying degrees of severity, and some individuals may not experience all of these symptoms. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional if you are experiencing any concerning symptoms.


How do H3N2 and Covid-19 differ from other infections?


Respiratory ailments, including the infamous H3N2 and Covid-19, are not the only afflictions that can beset human beings. Among these ailments are influenza, the common cold, and pneumonia. Though some of their symptoms may bear similarities, noteworthy distinctions exist between them.


The influenza virus, which causes the flu, presents with symptoms akin to those of the H3N2 strain, such as elevated body temperature, coughing, and bodily discomfort. Nevertheless, H3N2 is conventionally recognized as more grievous and can precipitate more hospitalizations and fatalities than the seasonal flu. Between 2010 and 2019, the CDC estimates that the number of deaths in the United States attributable to influenza will be between 12,000. In contrast, the 2017-2018 flu season observed approximately 80,000 fatalities attributable solely to H3N2.


Colds, caused by different viral strains, characteristically induce milder symptoms, including a runny nose, congestion, and a sore throat. While both H3N2 and Covid-19 can incite respiratory symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and pneumonia, Covid-19 is linked to a more extensive range of symptoms, including loss of taste or smell, gastrointestinal symptoms, and neurological symptoms like confusion and delirium.


Pneumonia, brought about by diverse viral or bacterial strains, can trigger severe respiratory symptoms, and prove fatal for some individuals. While both H3N2 and Covid-19 can culminate in pneumonia, Covid-19 has been associated with more severe pneumonia cases and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) relative to other infections.


As for treatment, both H3N2 and the flu can be managed with antiviral medications like Tamiflu if administered within the first 48 hours of symptom initiation, Tamiflu should only be started under guidance of Physician. Regrettably, no definitive antiviral treatment is accessible for Covid-19, and the primary approach to treatment includes supportive care to manage symptoms and prevent any complications.


It is important to note that although H3N2 may not be as easily transmissible as Covid-19, it can still spread rapidly from one person to another through respiratory droplets, particularly in crowded environments. Therefore, taking preventive measures like regular hand washing, wearing masks, and maintaining social distancing can help minimize the risk of infection for both H3N2 and Covid-19.




The respiratory disorders of H3N2 and Covid-19 are remarkably communicable and inflict grave consequences on an individual's health. H3N2, although not as contagious as Covid-19, has existed for several decades and has a higher mortality rate. In contrast, Covid-19 has manifested itself as an incredibly infectious agent, prompting a worldwide pandemic that has impacted countless individuals. It is difficult to differentiate on clinical basis, hence proper testing will only differentiate the two. Treatment methods for these ailments diverge, and acquiring vaccination against both viruses is the optimal precautionary approach.


It is essential to prioritize public health and welfare by adhering to hygienic practices, donning masks, and observing social distancing. Governments and health agencies ought to furnish factual data and provisions to facilitate people in averting and controlling the transmission of both H3N2 and Covid-19.



Dr. Arvinder Gandhi
Internal Medicine
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