A new Covid sub-variant named JN.1 has surfaced in Kerala, prompting swift action from the Union Ministry of Health. The discovery led to a nationwide mock drill in health facilities to evaluate their readiness. These preparedness measures, initiated on December 13 and continuing until December 18, 2023, are under the guidance of district collectors.
Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairman of the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force, highlighted the concerning traits of JN.1. He emphasized that this variant has the ability to spread rapidly and evade immunity, differentiating significantly from prior virus versions. This distinction allows it to infect individuals who have previously contracted Covid or received vaccinations.
The case was initially detected on November 18 through RT-PCR testing. Subsequently, on December 8, a positive specimen was identified in a 79-year-old woman from Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, as confirmed by Dr. Rajiv Bahl, Director General of the ICMR. The elderly woman exhibited moderate Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) symptoms and has since recovered from Covid. The Union Ministry maintains constant communication with the Kerala Health Department to monitor the situation closely.
Dr. Ujjwal Prakash, a senior consultant in Chest Medicine at Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital, elaborated on JN.1 symptoms, indicating that they primarily manifest as mild upper respiratory symptoms. Fever, sore throat, headache, runny nose, and in some instances, mild gastrointestinal symptoms are commonly observed. Most patients experience moderate upper respiratory symptoms that typically resolve within a few days.
Dr. Prakash emphasized the importance of immediate precautions for those experiencing viral infection symptoms. Wearing masks, seeking prompt testing, and self-isolation are strongly recommended measures.
As cases rise, governments in states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have initiated steps to enhance preparedness. Karnataka plans to conduct mock drills in hospitals to assess bed availability, especially ICU beds, oxygen supply, and medication readiness. Similarly, Tamil Nadu has taken proactive measures following outbreaks in neighboring regions.
The JN.1 variant, believed to be a derivative of Omicron subvariant BA.2.86 or Pirola, was first detected in the US in September 2023. Its recent emergence in China and its spread across various countries, including India, has raised concerns globally.
Amid these developments, heightened vigilance and prompt action remain crucial in controlling the spread and impact of this new Covid sub-variant.