20 Dec 2023

Is emergence of JN.1 coronavirus variant a matter of concern? What experts & WHO say?

The emergence of the JN.1 coronavirus variant has raised concerns among both health experts and the general public.

Originating in Luxembourg, this sub-variant is a descendant of the Pirola variant (BA.2.86), which, in turn, traces its roots back to the Omicron sub-variant. Notably, JN.1 carries mutations in the spike protein that may enhance its infectivity and ability to evade immune responses.

Symptoms associated with JN.1 are akin to those caused by earlier strains of the virus, encompassing fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Gastrointestinal issues might be more prevalent with this variant

There are indications that gastrointestinal issues might be more prevalent with this variant, although comprehensive studies are required to validate these observations.

Despite concerns about its transmissibility, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has clarified that there is no evidence suggesting that JN.1 poses a greater risk compared to other circulating variants. The CDC also emphasizes that, while JN.1 may be adept at evading the immune system, it does not necessarily result in more severe illness or increased hospitalizations.

Experts advise to exercise increased caution 

Experts say there's currently no evidence indicating a high prevalence of hypoxia or other severe manifestations of the disease. Nevertheless, individuals with comorbidities, the elderly, the obese, and the unvaccinated are advised to exercise increased caution as cases related to the JN.1 variant rise.

Doctors underscore the importance of remaining vigilant and adhering to preventive measures against the JN.1 variant. Vaccination continues to be a critical defense, as vaccines have proven effective against serious infections from various virus strains.

While JN.1 has been identified in Kerala, doctors emphasize that there is no cause for alarm regarding increased severity or hospitalization rates. JN.1 constitutes an estimated 15% to 29% of cases in the United States, with symptoms being relatively mild, according to Dr. Tushar Tayal.

WHO classifies JN.1 strain as a variant of interest

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the JN.1 coronavirus strain as a "variant of interest" but asserts that it does not pose a significant threat to public health. According to the WHO, current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death from JN.1 and other circulating variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Kerala reported 115 fresh Covid-19 infections 

In recent developments, China detected seven infections of the COVID subvariant, while Kerala reported 115 fresh Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours. The total active cases in the state stand at 1,749, with no reported deaths due to the virus in the last 24 hours. The total number of cured, discharged, or migrated cases in the last 24 hours is 112, bringing the overall count to 68,36,979 cases to date.

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