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Covid-19 sub-strain JN.1 detected in Kerala

New Delhi: India on Saturday reported the first case of JN.1, a new, fast-growing sub-variant of Covid-19, from Kerala, where the number of Covid-19 cases are increasing since the last few weeks.

The case was detected in a RT-PCR positive sample taken from Karakulam, Thiruvananthapuram on December 8. The patient had mild symptoms of Influenza Like Illness and has since recovered from Covid-19, the Union Health Ministry said here. All the entry points to the state were being monitored, officials said.

The new strain’s identity was found when the samples were put through genetic sequencing as a part of the routine ongoing surveillance, Rajiv Bahl, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, said.

It was first detected in the US in September 2023 and by the end of October, it made up less than 0.1 per cent of SARS-CoV-2 viruses. CDC projects that the variant comprises an estimated 15–29 per cent of SARS-CoV-2 cases in the US as of December 8.

“The continued growth of JN.1 suggests that it is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems. At this time, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants,” the Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta said in an analysis.

The JN.1 variant is the fastest-growing one in the USA at the moment with both CDC and World Health Organisation keeping a close watch on this variant.

According to the Union Health Ministry, there has been an increasing trend of Covid-19 cases from Kerala since the last few weeks.

This has been attributed to an increase in the number of samples from ILI cases being referred for testing. A majority of these cases are clinically mild and recovering on their own at their homes without any treatment.

Following the discovery of the new SARS-CoV2 variant, a mock drill has been undertaken in all health facilities in Kerala to assess their public health and hospital preparedness measures.

The drill that started from December 13, was being carried out under the overall supervision of the district collectors and is likely to be completed by December 18, the ministry said.

As per the revised surveillance guidelines for Covid-19, patients of ILI and SARI are tested for Covid-19 and positive cases referred for whole genome sequencing.

(Published 16 December 2023, 16:28 IST)

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