The Covid JN.1 variant has entered India and the country has reported over 150 cases of the new strain so far, raising alarms in different cities. Health authorities have urged reinstating social distancing and other preventative measures during New Year celebrations, which could lead to a surge in cases. Cold temperatures and festive gatherings can make it easier for the virus to spread. Covid JN.1 is a subvariant of the Omicron lineage and is more transmissible than previous strains. Experts say it spreads more quickly than other Omicron variants but does not cause more severe illness. Fever, cough, cold, headache, gastrointestinal upset, respiratory problems are some of the common symptoms of Covid JN.1. Experts warn that people with comorbidities or who suffered lung damage in previous waves should be careful, as the new variant may affect them more.
What is JN.1 and how is it different from other Omicron variants?
“JN.1 is a subvariant of Omicron, meaning it evolved through some genetic changes from the Omicron variant to form the current strain that has been very successful in its ability to infect and to transmit between people. JN.1 has a much higher transmissibility rate compared to Omicron, meaning that the number of people it can reach is much higher than it was for Omicron. It is possible that even a small amount of exposure can cause infection. If there is even a mild symptom, one must adhere to social distancing norms to protect oneself. With the holiday season, the risk of transmission increases because it is the time when we all meet, gather and spend time with our friends and family in closed spaces. Moreover, it is the winter period when the humidity in the air is a lot lower, which allows the moist droplets to remain suspended in the air, thereby increasing the length of time a person can be exposed to infection,” explains Dr. Pavithra Venkatagopalan, microbiologist, coronavirus expert and specialist in Covid awareness, Rotary Club of Madras Next Gen on teleconference with HT Digital.
Dr Tanu Singhal, consultant in pediatrics and infectious diseases at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, says Covid JN.1 can spread faster than other Omicron lineages but does not necessarily cause more severe disease.
“JN.1, a descendant of BA 2.86, has become the dominant variant and is currently estimated to cause more than 25% of all SARS-COV infections worldwide. The origin of more than 50% of all infections in the United States and 70% in the United States. Singapore. It has been labeled as a variant of interest by the WHO. This rapid emergence is due to a new mutation of the spike protein which makes it evasive to immunity gained from prior natural vaccination/infection. Studies show that Omicron’s specific vaccine booster may confer some cross-protection against JN.1. Fortunately, disease caused by JN.1 has been benign and there is no increase in hospitalizations compared to the Omicron lines,” adds Dr Singhal.
Dr Nikhil Modi of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals says the new Covid-19 variant is genetically different and therefore spreads faster, but agrees that common symptoms remain mild and similar to previous strains.
“As we have seen in the past, Covid has given rise to new or updated variants over time. The severity of different variants has varied and, at the moment, most cases are associated with JN.1 involved symptoms such as headaches and others.
However, this new variant differs in that it can spread more quickly than other variants. As the number of cases increases, we may also start to see more severe cases. Common symptoms we are currently seeing include cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, and fever, which may be high. Headaches are also reported in some cases.
Being genetically different, this variant has the ability to spread more quickly. So far, the severity of cases has been mild. Only as we see more and more cases will we be able to better understand its impact,” says Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
Dr Avi Kumar, senior pulmonology consultant at Fortis Escorts, Okhla Road, New Delhi, cautions that there are notable symptoms of JN.1 that individuals should be aware of, as they may not be as mild as those associated with d other Omicron variants.
“The JN.1 variant is distinguished from Pirola or BA.2.86 by a singular mutation in its spike protein. Although it shares traits with earlier Omicron strains, such as high transmissibility and mild symptoms, there are notable symptoms that individuals should be alert to.” , as they might not be as lightweight as those associated with other Omicron variants. Critical symptoms of the JN.1 Covid variant that deserve attention include fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and in some cases, moderate gastrointestinal issues. “Patients may also experience difficulty breathing. It is crucial to emphasize that at present there is no evidence to indicate that this variant is more severe or has higher mortality rates than other variants,” explains Dr. Kumar.
“While it has high rates of transmissibility, it does not appear to be much more virulent in terms of severity of symptoms. But severity can also depend on the underlying conditions and general health of the infected person .It could be his health condition. like diabetes, cholesterol, stress and autoimmune diseases, cancer, etc. If you had Covid and had a serious infection due to which your lungs are scarred, this may allow the new variant to further damage the lungs, making it difficult for the body to recover and helping the body breathe easily,” says Dr. Pavithra.
Symptoms of the JN.1 variant
“The JN.1 variant has usual symptoms like fever, fatigue, body aches. It also has mild gastrointestinal symptoms like mild stomach cramps or loose stools. It is not the major food poisoning. As a layman you cannot find out which variant you have. Vaccines available in India, there is no evidence to suggest that they are not effective. If you have vaccinated and vaccinated you have done everything you can to protect yourself,” says Dr. Pavithra.
“While there is no need to panic immediately, early results suggest that JN.1 may not exhibit increased severity compared to previous Covid variations. Nonetheless, extensive research is imperative to fully understand its behavior. Vigilance in monitoring its transmissibility and impact on immunity is necessary. “This is essential, and India and the global community are closely examining these aspects. To curb the spread of infection, it is essential to follow all necessary precautions, including regular hand washing and wearing masks,” concludes Dr Kumar.
“With the increase in Covid-19 cases, especially the concern about the JN.1 variant, which could possibly have slightly higher transmissibility than other current variants, I think people need to be more aware and should be a little more cautious. of the whole situation and not panic. I think a lot of vigilance is necessary, but there is no need to panic. It is important to set clear precautions that people should take. I believe that people at high risk of co-morbidities, such as people undergoing cancer chemotherapy, the elderly, people with diabetes, and those with uncontrolled hypertension should definitely wear a mask in very crowded and closed or confined spaces, especially when traveling by plane, in an air-conditioned compartment of a train or bus.” This is the time when they should prioritize wearing a mask to protect themselves . Likewise, people should become a little more aware that if they are not feeling well, they should be careful not to travel into open air and enclosed spaces with people and if they leave the house in a open space, they wear a mask in order to isolate and protect other people as well. So I think if we follow the festive season, these few things should be enjoyed by everyone and will be safe for everyone,” says Professor Rahul Pandit, Chairman, Critical Care, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital .
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