Will JN.1 drive a severe Covid wave in India?

Sharma (TC Bureau Chandigarh/New Delhi): Amid mounting cases of Covid-19 infections daily in India, majorly driven by the JN.1 sub variant, health experts on Friday said there is no reason to worry. India on Friday reported 4,091 active Covid cases and five deaths, revealed data from the Union Health Ministry. The country has also reportedly detected about 145 cases of JN.1 variant from eight states.

JN.1 has been classified as a variant of interest (VOI) by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its rapid spread. Meanwhile, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) of Delhi on Wednesday issued guidelines for Covid-19 suspected or positive cases that will be reported at hospitals following the sudden surge in the cases of Coronavirus in the country.

The AIIMS Delhi director held a meeting with all heads of departments of the hospital on COVID-19 contingency measures on Wednesday. In the meeting, policy on COVID-19 testing, the areas to be designated for positive patients and their hospitalisation was discussed.

As per the policy on COVID-19 testing, directed by the management, testing will be done for patients with SARI (severe acute respiratory infection) like symptoms that include according to the WHO, acute respiratory infection, persistent fever or fever of >= 38 C° with cough and onset within last 10 days.

“Till JN.1 becomes Variant of Concern (VoC), it should not bother the common man — in fact they do not come into the picture at all,” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, Consultant in Infectious Diseases Unison Medicare and Research Centre, Mumbai.

“Till it is only a VoI, it is only of interest (or if at all concern) for the scientific community and nodal ministry in governments at state and Centre,” he added. But then, what is causing the Covid- related deaths, including the death of DMDK chief Vijaykanth, in the country? “Individuals with certain comorbidities face an elevated risk of severe outcomes and increased mortality from Covid,” Dr. Vikas Chopra, Sr. Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, told IANS.

“Common comorbidities associated with higher death risk include cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and coronary artery disease, chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, obesity, and compromised immune systems,” Dr. Chopra said.

Adding advanced age also to the list of risk factors, he said these comorbidities contribute to a higher likelihood of complications, respiratory distress, and organ failure in Covid patients. “Recognising and managing these underlying health conditions is crucial in mitigating the impact of the virus and enhancing overall public health resilience,” the doctor said.

Dr. Gilada also stressed the importance of pandemic preparedness, and not mere Covid preparedness. “Genome sequencing should go on. Preparatory drills can go on. No reservation of beds required, in fact that may cause collateral damage and affect other health conditions adversely, as was during the thick of pandemic times,” said Gilada, Secretary General, Organised Medicine Academic Guild-OMAG.

Though identified in August 2023 in Luxembourg and currently present in more than 40 countries, JN.1 has neither caused larger morbidity or any remarkable mortality. Deaths are only in co-morbid people globally, he said.

He also lauded the country for having managed the Covid-19 pandemic “much better than many powerful countries”. “We are much better prepared now than ever before,” the doctor said. As many as 129 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Maharashtra on Friday, the health department said. The number of patients infected with the JN.1 variant remains at 10.

According to the Public Health Department of Maharashtra, 80,23,487 COVID-19 patients have been discharged after full recovery. The recovery rate in the state is 98.18 per cent, while the case fatality rate in the state is 1.81 per cent.

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