Greater Noida, December 27, 2023 – The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has identified a new variant of concern, named JN.1, in Kerala. Dr. Sapna Yadav, Senior Consultant in Pulmonology at Sarvodaya Hospital, Greater Noida, provides crucial insights into this emerging variant and offers guidance on diagnosis, treatment, vaccination, and preventive measures.
Dr. Sapna Yadav Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Sarvodaya Hospital, Greater Noida, said “Current JN.1 strain is variant of OMICRON strain of COVID 19, although it spreads more easily but it causes milder illness in majority individuals. Prevention is the most effective way to deal, hand hygiene, use of mask and appropriate vaccination is the key.” The JN.1 variant shares similarities with previous Omicron strains but has a distinctive mutation in its spike protein. While demonstrating high transmissibility and mild symptoms, it appears to be more adept at evading the immune system and spreading more easily. However, there is currently no evidence suggesting increased severity or higher fatality rates compared to other variants.
Patients infected with the JN.1 variant may experience initial symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and, in some cases, moderate gastrointestinal problems. Breathing difficulties may also occur in certain patients. Diagnosis involves COVID-19 PCR testing in conjunction with clinical symptom assessment.
Risk factors for infection include advanced age, male sex, smoking, and pre-existing conditions such as COPD, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and malignancy. Treatment remains supportive, with antivirals such as Paxlovid, molnupiravir (Lagevrio), and remdesivir (Veklury) recommended for individuals at high risk of severe illness with mild to moderate symptoms, according to CDC guidelines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) assures that current vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death from the JN.1 variant and other circulating COVID-19 variants. Dr. Yadav emphasizes the importance of maintaining protective measures, including mask-wearing, practicing respiratory etiquette, regular hand hygiene, staying up to date with vaccinations, and staying home when sick.
To safeguard against all SARS-CoV-2 variants, Dr. Yadav recommends adhering to preventive measures such as wearing masks in crowded areas, practicing respiratory etiquette, regular hand hygiene, staying up to date with vaccinations, and staying home when exhibiting symptoms or after exposure to the virus.
Dr. Sapna Yadav underscores the significance of halting the spread of the virus to prevent the emergence of further variants, reinforcing the collective responsibility to curb the pandemic.