Covid’s JN.1 variant in India: Top signs and symptoms to watch out for | Health

New Covid variant JN.1, that has been causing a spike in cases in US since September this year, has now been detected in India. Found in Kerala during a routine surveillance, the variant is currently under close monitoring. According to an Indian Express report, around 15 cases of the JN.1 variant have been found in samples from Goa. A descendant of BA.2.86 variant, JN.1 has a single mutation in the spike protein compared to Pirola. Union health ministry in India has urged states to step up Covid surveillance to prevent spread. Considering the spread of variant, it may either be more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems, experts feel. (Also read | JN.1 Covid variant: Should we worry?)

While it’s not clear if JN.1 variant is a cause of worry yet, India, has witnessed a spike in infection numbers (Pixabay)

While it’s not clear if JN.1 variant is a cause of worry yet, India, has witnessed a spike in infection numbers and around 252 new infections were reported across the country in the week ended December 17, according to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard. It’s a huge jump from 125 a week ago, and 59 a week before that.

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“The emergence of Covid’s JN.1 variant has heightened global concern. This virus is a subvariant of BA.2.86 and was initially detected in Kerala, India, emphasizing the need for vigilance. Kerala’s case was diagnosed through genome sequencing, with no reported hospitalizations or severe illnesses thus far, alleviating immediate worry. The situation is under close monitoring,” says Dr RR Dutta, HOD Internal Medicine, Paras Health, Gurugram.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has entered its fourth calendar year, and the virus continues to circulate in the form of newer variants of concern that demand vigilant surveillance. The latest iteration causing growing worry across parts of India is the JN.1 variant which descends from the Omicron XBB subvariant. While the current JN.1 variant may seem to cause only minor symptoms like runny noses, sore throats, and dry coughs, we must not underestimate its potential threat. It is essential to stay informed about the situation and be alert to key warning signs,” says Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

Top signs and symptoms of JN.1

“There is an increase in Covid-19 cases recently which suggests that there is a new variant that has emerged. It could be JN.1 which is a highly immune evasive variant. So far, most cases have been very mild. Symptoms are fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body ache and fatigue. These symptoms are not distinguishable from other respiratory illnesses like flu. If patient has these symptoms and they are mild just symptomatic care is enough. Red flag sign is breathlessness. The risk factors for severe disease are in the elderly and the immunocompromised,” says Dr Tanu Singhal, Consultant, Paediatrics And Infectious Disease, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai.

“Characterized by increased transmissibility, its symptoms overlap with other viral infections, including fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, mild gastrointestinal symptoms, and loss of taste or smell. These symptoms may resemble other upper respiratory infections caused by seasonal viruses. Crucial preventive measures include vaccination, mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing. Understanding its contagious nature underscores the urgency for adhering to safety protocols,” says Dr Dutta.

Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta, Gurugram shares a list of symptoms that one may have with this variant

1. Cough: Persistent coughing can be a common symptom.

2. Cold: Symptoms of a common cold, such as a runny or stuffy nose, may be observed.

3. Throat pain: Sore throat or discomfort in the throat is reported.

4. Headache: Individuals infected with the JN1 variant may experience headaches.

5. Loose motions: Gastrointestinal symptoms, like loose motions (diarrhoea), may occur.

6. Mild breathlessness: Some individuals may experience occasional mild breathlessness.

“Early detection and prompt isolation are our best tools in this ongoing fight. If you have any of these concerning symptoms, isolating yourself and getting tested is of utmost importance. Ignoring them as a simple cold could have serious consequences, not just for yourself but also for vulnerable individuals within our communities. Moreover, in crowded places or situations where maintaining physical distance is difficult, wearing a mask responsibly remains a powerful way to protect yourself and others,” says Dr Modi.

“Vaccination remains our most effective defense against the virus. For those eligible for booster doses, don’t delay in getting them. These additional layers of protection can significantly reduce the severity of illness, even if you get infected,” adds Dr Modi.

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