In a recent development, health experts are expressing concerns over the rapid spread of a new Omicron sub-lineage, JN.1, which is showing high immune escape ability. This variant has been classified as a “variant of interest” (VOI) by the World Health Organization (WHO), distinguishing it from its parent lineage BA.2.86. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified JN.1 as the fastest-growing variant in the United States.
According to Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, the genome sequencing coordinator for Maharashtra, JN.1 has exhibited an 86 percent growth advantage, with a notable increase from 3.3 percent to 27 percent of all coronavirus cases within a month. The variant is believed to possess characteristics such as increased transmission, immune escape, and a prolonged infectious period.
While JN.1 is highly contagious and adept at evading the immune response, experts emphasize that it does not necessarily lead to severe illness, as hospital admissions remain low. People with prior infections or vaccinations are reassured that the risk is low.
A recent study in the Lancet highlights a mutation in JN.1 that enables it to evade the immune response faster than its parent variant, BA.2.86.
Infectious Disease expert Dr. Ameet Dravid advises caution and stresses the importance of vaccination, especially for those who are partially vaccinated. While the symptoms remain similar to earlier variants, such as a sore throat, fatigue, headache, body ache, congestion, coughing, and fever, there is a possibility of a spike in cases due to the variant’s increased immune evasion.
As a precautionary measure, Dr. Dravid suggests making masks mandatory in crowded locations and emphasizes the need to practice basic respiratory etiquette, such as covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.