A new Covid sub-variant JN.1 has been identified in a woman in Kerala, raising concerns among Indian health professionals.
The Union Ministry of Health on 16 December initiated preparedness measures after the case was identified, but has asked citizens ‘not to worry.’
‘Considering the upcoming festive season, there is a need to put in requisite public health measures and other arrangements to minimize the risk in transmission of the disease by adherence to maintenance of respiratory hygiene,’ the advisory stated.
The advisory directed the states to monitor and report district-wise Influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness cases in all health facilities on a regular basis and to update the details in the Integrated Health Information Platform as well. It also said that the states should ensure adequate testing in all districts.
A mock drill is underway in health facilities across states, evaluating public health and hospital readiness.
JN.1 Covid sub-variant
The JN.1 variant of COVID is considered to be the Omicron subvariant BA.2.86 or Pirola. It was first detected in the United States in September 2023.
As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the BA.2.86 has a total of 20 mutations on the spike protein, which is a concern because viruses use spike proteins to latch onto the cells of the host.
As per aReutersreport, on 15 December, China has detected seven infections of JN.1.
JN.1. and its variants have been spreading in the United States, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
It has been detected in 38 countries, including India, and is believed to be responsible for the recent hike in hospitalization in a few nations.
JN.1 Covid sub-variant in India
In Kerala, the case was detected in an RT-PCR positive sample from Karakulam in Thiruvananthapuram district of the southern state on December 8, Dr Rajiv Bahl, Director General of the ICMR said. The sample had tested RT-PCR positive on November 18, he added.
The 79-year-old woman had mild symptoms of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and has since recovered from Covid. The Union ministry is in regular touch with the Kerala health department and monitoring various entry points to the state.
Medical experts opine that the JN.1 variant is capable of spreading faster and evading immunity, even if you have been vaccinated or had the virus before.
JN.1 is a severely immune-evasive and infectious variant, markedly different from XBB and all other prior versions of the COVID-19 virus.
JN.1 Covid sub-variant symptoms
JN.1 is however a mild variant, so the government has advised people to not spread panic.
The reported symptoms of JN.1 include fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and, in some cases, mild gastrointestinal symptoms.
Apart from this, most patients experience may experience mild upper respiratory symptoms, which typically improve within four to five days.
‘The first way going forward is testing this new variant of COVID if possible, and then we have to see whether they have COVID or any other viral infection. Symptoms are almost very common with other viral infections. They may be slightly more severe. Some patients may have some symptoms more severe than others, but more or less the infection is just like any other viral infection.’
JN.1 Covid sub-variant precautions taken by states
Health experts have advised that individuals with viral infection symptoms should promptly cover themselves, wear masks to minimize the risk of spreading the infection, and undergo testing early.
The Karnataka government has decided to conduct mock drills in hospitals to check preparedness in the event the pandemic recurs in the state.
It convened the Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Officials have also been instructed to check how many beds including ICU beds are available, as well as oxygen availability and medicines.
In Tamil Nadu, the state government has taken all precautions to tackle a fresh Covid outbreak, if any, in the wake of the recent uptick of infections in neighbouring Kerala.
New COVID-19 infections in India
On Saturday, India recorded a single-day rise of 339 new COVID-19 infections. The number of cases reported was higher than the 312 cases reported on Friday.
As per the Health Ministry, the active caseload rose to 1,492. The country’s Covid case tally currently stands at 4,50,04,481 (4.50 crore).
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