Delhi on Wednesday reported its first case of JN.1 COVID sub-variant, the city's Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj confirmed to multiple news agencies.
Officials said that out of the three samples sent for genome sequencing, one tested positive for the new variant, and two cases were of the Omicron variant.
Delhi's health authorities revealed that nine fresh cases of coronavirus were detected in the city in the last 24 hours, with a total of 35 active cases.
JN.1 COVID Sub-Variant In Delhi
“Current JN.1 strain is a variant of Omicron strain of COVID-19 that spreads more easily but causes milder illness in the majority of individuals. Prevention is the most effective way to deal; hand hygiene, the use of masks, and appropriate vaccination are the keys," said Dr Sapna Yadav, Senior Consultant in Pulmonology at Sarvodaya Hospital, Greater Noida, in a press release shared with the OnlyMyHealth team.
The statement further stated that the JN.1 variant shares similarities with previous Omicron strains but has a distinctive mutation in its spike protein. It demonstrates high transmissibility and mild symptoms; however, it seems to be more adept at evading the immune system and spreading more easily.
So far, there has been no indication of increased severity or higher fatality rates compared to other variants.
Symptoms To Watch Out For
JN.1 COVID sub-variant is the latest strain of the SARs-CoV-2 virus. It is closely related to the variant BA.2.86, with a single change in the spike protein.
Given the sudden uptick in the number of COVID cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that JN.1 is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems.
Currently, there have been no indications that the JN.1 infection causes different symptoms. Fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and, in some cases, moderate gastrointestinal problems continue to remain some of the most common signs. In severe cases, people may experience breathing difficulties.
AIIMS Issues COVID Directives
As Delhi reported its first case of the JN.1 coronavirus variant, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Wednesday issued guidelines for handling suspected or positive COVID patients arriving at hospitals. Some key takeaways include:
12 beds in the C6 ward will be earmarked for the hospitalisation of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
A screening OPD in the Emergency Department will assess patients for COVID-like symptoms and assist them based on their medical requirements.
Rooms 1–12 in the new private ward will be earmarked for the hospitalisation of COVID-positive Employees Health Scheme (EHS) beneficiaries.
Engineering works in the New Blocks, Masjid Moth Campus, will work towards installing UVGA filters and HEPA filters at the earliest.
Precautionary Measures To Take
Amid growing concerns about the new JN.1 subvariant, it is important to take necessary precautions, especially as the New Year approaches.
Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr MS Barthwal, Professor and Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Pimpri, Pune, said, "It is advisable for high-risk individuals, including those with chronic lung diseases, COPD, asthma, heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease, to take precautionary measures.” “This includes wearing masks in crowded places and isolating themselves at home if COVID-19 symptoms develop,” she added, emphasising the crucial need for vaccination, especially for those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Role Of Vaccination
As of December 18, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified JN.1 COVID sub-vairnat as a Variant of Interest (VOI). VOI refers to specific genetic markers that may go on to affect transmission, diagnostics, therapeutics, or immune escape, as per the CDC. However, VOI is a category below Variant of Concern (VoC), which indicates an increase in transmissibility or virulence.
So far, the WHO has assured that current vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death from the JN.1 variant and other circulating COVID-19 variants.
According to the CDC, the effectiveness of or the protection provided by the COVID vaccines against the infection tends to be "modest and sometimes short-lived," but it can still prevent severe illness.
‘Resist The Urge To Panic’
During these uncertain times, one must resist the urge to panic, said Dr Barthwal, cautioning against the use of medications without conclusive evidence of effectiveness.
“One should follow ongoing updates and directives from authoritative bodies to guide our course of action. Aligning testing, tracking, and treatment strategies with health authority guidelines is paramount,” she added.
Additionally, the doctor shared that testing is not recommended for the general population unless directed by health authorities. It is essential to source information from official channels, stay calm, adhere to guidelines, and access accurate information, she advised further, warning against unverified information circulating on social media platforms.