The Centre on December 16 confirmed the presence of JN.1 subvariant of Covid-19 in a patient from Kerala, the first such case in India.JN.1 is closely related to the BA.2.86 variant, also referred to asPirola, which has been detected in the US and China recently. As per the government, sample of a Covid positive patient from Thiruvananthapuram came positive for JN.1 on December 8 as part of the ongoing routine surveillance.
What is JN.1?
This virus is a novel variant of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.86, (also known as Pirola) of SARS-CoV-2. It features an extra mutation on its spike protein. The variant has the capability to spread rapidly and evade immunity, highlighting the need for continued monitoring and caution in response to the evolving situation in India.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Covid-19 remain consistent across all variants. According to American health agency CDC’s suggestion, the JN.1 coronavirus variant may or may not induce distinct symptoms compared to other variations. Reported symptoms of JN.1 include fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms.
Should we worry about it?
The CDC has alerted that it lacks information on whether the strain exhibits distinct symptoms from prior coronavirus variants. The agency has cautioned that JN.1 demonstrates heightened ability to evade the immune system, heightening concerns about increased transmissibility.
WHO urges ‘strong surveillance’
In the wake of the surge, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing.
The global body also shared a video of its Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, who explained the reason for the recent surges and what precautions can be taken.
“Dr @mvankerkhove talks about the current surge in respiratory diseases #COVID19 and JN.1 subvariant. WHO continues to assess the situation. Follow WHO’s public health advice to keep your families and friends safe during this holiday season,” WHO posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Maria Van Kerkhove also took to the social media platform and said that a number of pathogens have led to the rise in respiratory diseases across the world.
“Respiratory diseases are increasing around the world due to a number of pathogens incl #COVID19, #flu, rhinovirus, mycoplasma pneumonia & othersSARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve. JN.1 (subvariant of BA.2.86) is already a VOI and continues to increase in circulation,” she stated.
China has identified seven cases of the Covid caused by subvariant JN.1, featuring an extra spike protein mutation. Discovered in the US in September 2023, JN.1 has since surfaced in 11 other nations. The CDC suggests it’s too early to predict its wider spread based on current information, emphasizing the need for ongoing monitoring.
Meanwhile, India on Sunday logged 335 new Covid-19 infections while the number of active cases increased to 1,701, according to the Union health ministry. Health officials have stressed the importance of vigilance, advocating preventive measures like hand hygiene, updated vaccinations, and seeking prompt medical attention for any worrisome symptoms.
A mock drill is underway in health facilities across states, evaluating public health and hospital readiness. This exercise, overseen by district collectors, commenced on December 13 and is scheduled for completion by December 18, 2023.
While the majority of cases in Kerala are reported to be clinically mild, the health authorities emphasise the importance of ongoing vigilance and preparedness to effectively manage the evolving situation related to Covid-19 variants.
The India SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a network of Genomic Laboratories, has been actively monitoring the genomic aspects of Covid-19 in India.
The health authorities highlight that most patients experience these mild upper respiratory symptoms, which typically improve within four to five days.
Hospitals, Health centres to increase testing: K’taka Health Minister after Kerala reports cases of new COVID-19 strain