NEW DELHI, Dec 17: A new variant of COVID-19, JN.1 strain, said to be more infectious than the previous variants, has been detected in Kerala.
The scientists across the world are worried about the new variant which was first detected in the US in September this year. In Kerala, the variant detected in an RT-PCR-positive sample from Karakulam in Thiruvananthapuram district of the southern state on December 8.
The 79-year-old woman had mild symptoms of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) and has since recovered from Covid. This variant is causing a surge in infections worldwide yet again and raising alarm bells among health authorities.
An Omicron sub-variant known as BA.2.86 or Pirola is thought to be the COVID JN.1 variant. After it was detected in the US in September, this year, seven cases of the specific sub-variant were found in China on December 15. “Even though BA.2.86 and JN.1 sound very different because of the way variants are named, there is only a single change between JN.1 and BA.2.86 in the spike protein,” scientists said.
The spike protein, which is referred to as a “spike” because it resembles small spikes on the virus’s surface, plays an important role in the virus’ ability to infect humans. According to the CDC, vaccinations targeting the spike protein of a virus should also function against JN.1 and BA.2.86.
According to Senior Consultant in Chest Medicine at Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Ujjwal Prakash, although vigilance is crucial, there is no need for people to panic. “You need to be more vigilant. I don’t think that there’s reason to panic or do anything extra than just being vigilant about the emergence of the new variant,” he said.
Fever, running nose, sore throat, headache, and, in certain situations, minor gastrointestinal problems are among the symptoms that have been recorded in patients so far. The doctor added that most patients experience mild upper respiratory symptoms, which typically improve within four to five days.
“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,” Dr Prakash said.
“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,” he said regarding the emergence of JN.1. He advised people to take precautions by wearing masks and undergoing testing if they detect viral infection symptoms. If symptoms persist, individuals are encouraged to isolate themselves from the general public, the doctor added.