As the global community grapples with a surge in Covid-19 cases, predominantly linked to the JN.1 variant, it becomes crucial to recognize the signs of infection associated with this highly infectious strain, designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
JN.1, stemming from the BA.2.86 sub-strain of Omicron, carries a unique mutation in the spike protein, responsible for cell entry and infection, along with mutations in other regions. Recent data from the UK reveals that JN.1 is the fastest-growing variant, with a weekly rate of 84.2%.
The ZOE Health Study, a health monitoring application, identifies the five most common symptoms of JN.1 as a runny nose, sore throat, headache, sleep disturbance, and restlessness. Additional symptoms include fever with muscle pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and persistent cough.
Individuals experiencing symptoms, particularly amid the rapid spread of JN.1, are advised to seek medical consultation. Simultaneously, adherence to public health measures such as wearing masks and maintaining distance in crowded places is crucial. Timely detection, vigilance, and a flexible response play a vital role in managing and mitigating the impact of mutations.
While the WHO has not yet provided a statement on the severity of patients infected with JN.1, research published in the journal Cell in early January suggests that JN.1 can infect cells in the lower lung area, potentially intensifying symptoms. Experts highlight that JN.1 exhibits enhanced adherence to cells and actively participates in host cell membrane fusion.
To safeguard against JN.1 infection, experts recommend the following preventive measures:
- Maintain Personal Hygiene: Regularly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use alcohol-based sanitizers.
- Wear a Mask: Utilize medical masks or N95 masks, ensuring coverage of both nose and mouth, particularly in public spaces where physical distancing is challenging.
- Vaccination: Vaccination remains a primary tool to prevent health complications associated with JN.1. Experts advocate for completing the standard two doses and receiving a booster shot.
Several Southeast Asian countries have implemented specific measures to curb the spread of mutations. Indonesia, for instance, has installed thermal scanners at major international airports and the Batam ferry terminal to screen travelers. Those displaying symptoms are subjected to further rapid testing. Recently, the Ho Chi Minh City infectious disease surveillance system recorded that 12 out of 16 Covid patients hospitalized in December were infected with JN.1, with one case infected with JN.1.1.