India is witnessing a fresh surge in H3N2 cases, with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Delhi on high alert. While the majority of cases out of the total cases of H3N2 influenza identified in the country have been mild, the government has issued an advisory to take appropriate measures. As per reports, adults over the age of 65, children, and other immunocompromised people are more vulnerable to the infection. In fact, people with kidney patients are also at a higher risk, says an expert.
Healthshots asked Dr Saurabh Joshi, Senior Consultant and Head, Urology, Uro-oncology, and Kidney Transplant, Accord Hospital, Faridabad, Delhi NCR, to understand the link between kidney disease and the H3N2 virus.
Does the H3N2 virus affect your kidneys?
H3N2 is a type of influenza virus that can cause severe respiratory illness, particularly in people who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions. While influenza is not typically known to have direct effects on the kidneys, complications from the virus can lead to acute kidney injury in some cases, says Dr Joshi.
For dialysis patients, who are already at an increased risk for influenza complications due to their weakened immune system and underlying health conditions, H3N2 infection can be particularly challenging. Dialysis patients require regular treatments to filter waste products from their blood since their kidneys don’t functioning properly. If they contract influenza, their immune systems may not be able to fight off the virus effectively, leading to more severe illness and potentially life-threatening complications.
One of the potential complications of H3N2 infection in dialysis patients is acute kidney injury or AKI, which is a sudden loss of kidney function. AKI can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, medications, and other health conditions. In the case of H3N2 infection, the virus can cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the kidneys, which can lead to acute kidney injury, adds the expert.
Symptoms of kidney injury
Since acute kidney injury is the major complication that could stem from an H3N2 infection, it is best to know the symptoms of the disease to get timely treatment. As per the expert, the symptoms of acute kidney injury can include decreased urine output, fluid retention, and swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet. In severe cases, acute kidney injury can lead to electrolyte imbalances, seizures, or coma. Treatment for acute kidney injury may include medications to manage electrolyte imbalances, as well as dialysis to help remove waste products from the blood and restore kidney function.
How can you prevent infection from the H3N2 virus?
Your best defence against the H3N2 virus and complications like acute kidney injury is getting vaccinated annually, ideally before the start of the flu season. As for dialysis patients, Dr Joshi advises that they should consult with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of action. Apart from vaccination, kidney patients on dialysis should practice good hygiene, such as washing their hands, avoiding close contact with sick people and wearing a mask in public places.
In case a dialysis patient contracts H3N2 influenza, they should seek prompt medical attention to prevent complications. Dr Joshi says, “Antiviral medications may be prescribed to reduce the severity and duration of the illness, and close monitoring for signs of acute kidney injury is important. If acute kidney injury does occur, prompt treatment is necessary to prevent further damage to the kidneys and other organs.”
While there are no known side effects of the H3N2 virus on the kidneys, complications like acute kidney injury can happen, especially in patients on dialysis. Vaccination and good hygiene are the best ways to prevent infection. If H3N2 infection does occur in a patient with kidney disease, prompt medical attention is required to avoid further complications that may sabotage your overall health.