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Covid subvariant JN.1: No need for additional dose of vaccine at present, says INSACOG chief

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By Shalini Bhardwaj

New Delhi | December 23, 2023 10:20:53 PM IST
Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in India and the detection of a subvariant JN.1, India SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) chief Dr NK Arora said that no additional dose of vaccine is needed against the subvariant at present.

Speaking to ANI about the current situation in the country, Dr Arora said, "I would say prevention is required for all those who are 60 years of age or older, who are likely to have comorbidities and those who are on drugs that suppress our immunity, like cancer patients. If they have not taken precaution so far, then they are advised to take precaution; otherwise, there is no need for any additional doses."

The INSACOG chief asserted that various subvariants of Omicron have been reported but none of them have increased severity.

"Every week you hear something new coming up in different parts and then it spreads all over India. We have identified a large number of subvariants, over 400 subvariants, or mutations of this virus, and fortunately, none of these Omicron variants have really been associated with more severe disease or hospitalisation," he said.

He explained the major symptoms of JN.1, highlighting that they are similar to those of other subvariants.

"Symptoms are very similar on the basis that one cannot differentiate JN.1 from other subvariants of Omicron like fever, nasal discharge and cough. There can be occasional diarrhoea and severe body aches, and usually they recover in two to five days," the doctor outlined.

Dr Arora further said that though the cases are on the rise, those being hospitalised are a lesser number.

"Within India, from October last week till now in last 8 weeks, we have seen 22 cases. There is no evidence that it is spreading very rapidly. JN.1 is less than 1 per cent of all the isolates so far. Recently, the number of cases has certainly increased, and the testing has also picked up," he said.

"There is no increase in hospitalisation. We see a lot of cases in Kerala, but I must also say that in other states where testing has increased recently, we are seeing a higher number of cases. But there is no increase in hospitalisation or severe disease that requires ventilation or results in deaths," the doctor added.

He reiterated the fact that there is no need for panic but that it requires vigilance.

"I would like to assure everybody that we need to be vigilant, but not panicky at all," he added.

A multifold spurt in fresh COVID cases was noted in India over the past 24 hours, with Kerala contributing the majority of those.

A total of 423 cases were reported and of which 266 were from Kerala and 70 from neighbouring Karnataka, Union health ministry data showed.

Two deaths were reported in Kerala.

The total number of active cases of Covid-19 in the country was recorded at 3,420.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified JN.1 as a variant of interest, distinct from its parent lineage BA.2.86. However, the global health body emphasised that the overall risk posed by JN.1 remains low based on current evidence.

Due to its rapidly increasing spread, WHO is classifying the variant JN.1 as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from the parent lineage BA.2.86. It was previously classified as VOI as part of BA.2.86 sublineages.

Based on the available evidence, the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 is currently evaluated as low. Despite this, with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, JN.1 could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries.

The WHO had earlier said it was continuously monitoring the evidence and would update the JN.1 risk evaluation as needed.

The WHO advises people to take measures to prevent infections and severe disease using all available tools. These include wearing a mask when in crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated areas, keeping a safe distance from others, practicing respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes), cleaning hands regularly, and getting tested if one has any symptoms or if you might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or influenza. (ANI)

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