The latest Covid sub-variant JN.1 has been reported in Kerala, following which the Union Ministry of Health commenced preparatory measures on December 16. After the sub-variant was identified in the woman, a mock drill was conducted nationwide in health facilities to assess public health and hospital readiness. On December 13, these measures are conducted, and will continue until December 18, 2023, under the direction of district collectors.
While in conversation with ANI, Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairman of the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force, said that the JN.1 variety is capable of spreading faster and bypassing immunity. Jayadevan said, "JN.1 is a highly immune-evasive and rapidly spreading variant that differs significantly from XBB and all previous versions of this virus. This allows it to infect persons who have previously had Covid infections and people who have been immunised."
Covid sub-variant JN.1: Kerala reports 1st case
On November 18, the sample tested positive for RT-PCR. On December 8, the case was detected in an RT-PCR-positive specimen from Karakulam in the Thiruvananthapuram region of Kerala, said Dr Rajiv Bahl, Director General of the ICMR. The 79-year-old woman had moderate Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) symptoms and has since recovered from Covid. The Union Ministry is in daily contact with the Kerala Health Department and monitors the situation.
Covid sub-variant JN.1: Symptoms
1) Senior consultant in Chest Medicine at Delhi's Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr Ujjwal Prakash, explained that the JN.1 symptoms are mild variants causing upper respiratory symptoms.
2) Fever, sore throat, headache, and runny nose are else symptoms. In a few cases, mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Aside from that, most patients experience relatively moderate upper respiratory symptoms, which usually resolve within four to five days.
According to Dr Prakash, "The first step is to test the new COVID variant, and later we determine whether they have COVID or another viral infection. Other viral infections virtually always cause symptoms. They may be a little more severe. Some individuals may have more severe symptoms than others, but the virus is essentially the same as any other viral infection."
Covid sub-variant JN.1: Precautionary measures
Medical experts advised individuals experiencing viral infection symptoms to cover themselves immediately. Use masks to reduce the risk of spreading the infection, and seek testing sooner. Dr Prakash said that individuals are encouraged to isolate themselves if the symptoms persist.
Following the rising cases, the Karnataka government has planned to hold mock drills at hospitals to monitor the readiness. On Tuesday, the government also convened the Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19.
According to Karnataka Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao, officials have also been directed to perform simulated drills in all hospitals to assess the number of beds, particularly ICU beds, oxygen availability, and medicines. Similarly, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said that Tamil Nadu's state government has taken necessary steps to deal with a new Covid outbreak, if any, in the aftermath of recent outbreaks in Kerala and Singapore.
The latest Covid sub-variant JN.1 is believed to be the Omicron subvariant BA.2.86 or Pirola. In September 2023, it was initially tracked in the US. According to reports, China reported seven infections of the subvariant on December 15. The spread of Pirola can be seen in countries including the United States, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Overall, it has been identified in 38 countries, including India.