There’s been a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in India, coinciding with the emergence of the JN.1 sub-variant, identified for the first time in Kerala. JN.1 originates from the BA 2.86 “pirola” variant, itself a subset of Omicron. Notably, JN.1 possesses an additional mutation in the receptor binding domain (L455S) compared to BA 2.86. This variant exhibits significant resistance across receptor binding domain classes 1, 2, and 3, showcasing heightened immune evasion compared to BA 2.86 and other resistant strains.
Recognizing its significance, the World Health Organization has classified JN.1 as a variant of interest. Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan from the IMA COVID Task Force cautioned that this new strain might particularly challenge older individuals and those with multiple underlying health issues.”
In the context of COVID-19 cases in India, the nation reported 594 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, causing the active cases to rise from 2,311 to 2,669. The death toll climbed to 5,33,327 with six more individuals—three from Kerala, two from Karnataka, and one from Punjab—succumbing to the viral disease.
The factors to worry about?
- The WHO highlighted JN.1’s rapid spread, mentioning it’s become dominant in some countries and is highly transmissible across all WHO regions, supported by consistent data on SARS-CoV-2 sequences.
- JN.1 might be better at evading immunity. According to the WHO, its ability to escape immunity depends on the immune profiles of the populations tested.
- As winter approaches, the WHO warns about a possible increase in respiratory diseases. They caution that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 alongside other viruses like influenza and rhinovirus could worsen the respiratory disease burden.
Should People need to worry?
VK Paul mentioned that the scientific community in India is closely investigating the new variant. As a member of NITI Aayog, he reassured that there’s no need to panic and highlighted the importance of states increasing testing and strengthening surveillance systems.
Previously, Union Health Secretary Sudhansh Pant stated that the variant is currently under intense scientific scrutiny but isn’t an immediate cause for concern. According to PTI, he mentioned, “There’s been no surge in hospitalization rates linked to COVID-19. Cases admitted to hospitals had other medical conditions, and Covid was incidentally detected.”
Dr. Ujjwal Prakash, a senior consultant in Chest Medicine at Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital, highlighted that JN.1 shares similarities with other variants and sub-variants seen globally, as per ANI reports.
Common symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, and headaches. Some may also experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms.
Dr. Prakash mentioned that some patients might have mild upper respiratory symptoms, typically improving within four to five days.
Media reports suggest additional symptoms such as extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and loss of taste or smell.
Know about JN.1 Variant:-
- JN.1 (BA.18.104.22.168) is a variant stemming from the BA.2.86 lineage (Pirola) of the coronavirus.
- The BA.2.86 lineage, initially spotted in August 2023, differs from the circulating SARS-CoV-2 Omicron XBB lineages like EG.5.1 and HK.3. Featuring over 30 mutations in the spike protein, BA.2.86 indicates a high potential for immune evasion.
- JN.1 was first detected in Denmark and Israel around late July 2023.
- As per reports, this sub-strain is currently prevalent in 36-40 countries and has resulted in 16 deaths in recent weeks, according to PTI.
Kerala records 265 new COVID-19 cases, one death:-
Over the last 24 hours, Kerala logged 265 fresh COVID-19 infections and one fatality, as reported by the Union Health Ministry’s website on Friday.
Out of the 328 reported nationwide cases till 8 am today, Kerala recorded 265, contributing to its active case count of 2,606, as per the website data.
Adding to the state’s toll, one more death was reported, elevating the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities in Kerala to 72,060 since the outbreak began three years ago.