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India Discovers JN.1 Variant; States Urged for Vigilance

The Central government advised the states on Monday to “maintain continuous vigilance” following the discovery of the JN.1 strain in India. On December 8, 2023, the first case of JN.1 was discovered in a positive RT-PCR sample in Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

of the midst of a rise of COVID-19 infections, the World Health Organization stated on Sunday that the virus was altering and adapting. It also asked member countries to maintain strict surveillance and sequence sharing. “Dr @mvankerkhove talks about the current surge in respiratory diseases #COVID19 and JN.1 subvariant,” WHO tweeted on X, previously Twitter. WHO is still assessing the situation. To keep your family and friends safe this holiday season, follow WHO’s public health guidance.”

With 1,828 active JN.1 cases in India as of Monday, concern about the new strain is increasing.

What is the danger of the JN.1 variant?

Chief Dr. NK Arora of the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a network of laboratories that studies genomic variations of the COVID-19 virus, stated, “No cause for panic (over JN.1 subvariant). The number of samples is less but these are being collected from all the states. INSACOG is closely monitoring the situation, studying the epidemiology and clinical behaviour of the virus.”

Arora told news agency ANI, “This variant has been isolated and reported in November; this is a subvariant of BA.2.86. We have some cases of JN.1. India is keeping a vigil and that’s the reason no hospitalization or severe disease has been reported so far.”

JN.1 was initially identified in the United States in September 2023.

Speaking on the first case of COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 being detected in Kerala, Health Minister Veena George said that it was not a cause for concern. She said, “There is no need for any concern. It’s a sub-variant. It was just found here. Months ago, this variant was detected in a few Indians who were screened at the Singapore Airport. It’s just that Kerala has identified the variant here through genome sequencing. There is no need to worry. The situation is being closely monitored.”

Dr Ujjwal Prakash Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital said that vigilance was crucial regarding the new variant but there was no need for panic. “You need to be more vigilant. I don’t think that there’s a reason to panic or do anything extra than just being vigilant.”

He told news agency ANI that JN.1 was a mild variant which caused upper respiratory symptoms. The symptoms comprise fever, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and, in certain instances, mild gastrointestinal symptoms. He added that the symptoms were improving within four to five days.

Prakash said, “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. I don’t think I would be wise enough to say that the new wave of Covid is coming. It may just pass away like any other viral infection. Let’s keep a watch and keep our fingers crossed.”

National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force’s co-chairman Rajeev Jayadevan said that the new variant was capable of spreading at a faster pace along with evading immunity.

He said, “JN.1 is a severely immune-evasive and fast-spreading variant, markedly different from XBB and all other prior versions of this virus. This enables it to infect people who had previous Covid infections and also people who were vaccinated.”

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