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Influenza A (H3N2) virus

Influenza A virus subtype H3N2 (also H3N2) is a subtype of viruses that cause influenza (flu). H3N2 Viruses can infect birds and mammals. In birds, humans, and pigs, the virus has mutated into many strains. H3N2 is increasingly abundant in seasonal influenza, which kills an estimated 36,000 people in the United States each year.

Seasonal influenza kills an estimated 36,000 people in the United States each year. Flu vaccines are based on predicting which mutants of H1N1, H3N2, H1N2, and influenza B will proliferate in the next season. Separate vaccines are developed for the northern and southern hemispheres in preparation for their annual epidemics. In the tropics, influenza shows no clear seasonality. In the past ten years, H3N2 has tended to dominate in prevalence over H1N1, H1N2, and influenza B. Measured resistance to the standard antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantadine in H3N2 has increased from 1% in 1994 to 12% in 2003 to 91% in 2005.

Seasonal H3N2 flu is a human flu from H3N2 that is slightly different from one of last year's flu season H3N2 variants. Seasonal influenza viruses flow out of overlapping epidemics in East and Southeast Asia, then trickle around the globe before dying off. Identifying the source of the viruses allows global health officials to better predict which viruses are most likely to cause the most disease over the next year. An analysis of 13,000 samples of influenza A/H3N2 virus that were collected across six continents from 2002 to 2007 by the WHO's Global Influenza Surveillance Network showed that newly emerging strains of H3N2 appeared in East and Southeast Asian countries about 6 to 9 months earlier than anywhere else. The strains generally reached Australia and New Zealand next, followed by North America and Europe. The new variants typically reached South America after an additional 6 to 9 months, the group reported.


Notable H3N2 Incidents and Outbreaks

Hong Kong Flu (1968–1969)
The Hong Kong Flu was a category 2 flu pandemic caused by a strain of H3N2 descended from H2N2 by antigenic shift, in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus. This pandemic of 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people worldwide. The pandemic infected an estimated 500,000 Hong Kong residents, 15% of the population, with a low death rate. In the United States, approximately 33,800 people died. Both the H2N2 and H3N2 pandemic flu strains contained genes from avian influenza viruses. The new subtypes arose in pigs coinfected with avian and human viruses and were soon transferred to humans. Swine were considered the original "intermediate host" for influenza, because they supported reassortment of divergent subtypes. However, other hosts appear capable of similar coinfection (e.g., many poultry species), and direct transmission of avian viruses to humans is possible. H1N1 may have been transmitted directly from birds to humans (Belshe 2005).

The Hong Kong flu strain shared internal genes and the neuraminidase with the 1957 Asian Flu (H2N2). Accumulated antibodies to the neuraminidase or internal proteins may have resulted in much fewer casualties than most pandemics. However, cross-immunity within and between subtypes of influenza is poorly understood. The Hong Kong flu was the first known outbreak of the H3N2 strain, though there is serologic evidence of H3N? infections in the late 19th century.

Fujian flu (2003–2004)
Fujian flu refers to flu caused by either a Fujian human flu strain of the H3N2 subtype of the Influenza A virus or a Fujian bird flu strain of the H5N1 subtype of the Influenza A virus. These strains are named after Fujian, a coastal province of the People's Republic of China that is across the Taiwan strait from Taiwan.

A/Fujian (H3N2) human flu (from A/Fujian/411/2002(H3N2) -like flu virus strains) caused an unusually severe 2003–2004 flu season. This was due to a reassortment event that caused a minor clade to provide a haemagglutinin gene that later became part of the dominant strain in the 2002–2003 flu season. A/Fujian (H3N2) was made part of the trivalent influenza vaccine for the 2004–2005 flu season and its descendants are still the most common human H3N2 strain.