In a recent development, Andhra Pradesh has reported 280 cases of the Omicron subvariant JN.1, making up over 13% of the total cases detected in India, which stands at 2,100. This places the state as the second-highest contributor of JN.1 cases, following Maharashtra with 565 cases. Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, and Goa also have significant numbers of infections related to this subvariant.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified JN.1 as a “variant of interest,” indicating a low global public health risk. According to doctors in Visakhapatnam, where the cases were identified, the symptoms caused by JN.1 remain largely similar to those of previous variants. However, there is a notable increase in gastrointestinal symptoms, while fever is less pronounced.
The first case of JN.1 in Andhra Pradesh was identified on December 18, 2023, in a male patient. Since then, the state has recorded 280 infections from various JN.1 lineages, representing over 80% of the nearly 340 COVID-19 cases reported during this period. It’s important to note that the actual number of JN.1 infections may be higher as only a limited number of positive samples undergo genome sequencing.
Health experts believe that the recent surge in cases is likely attributed to this new Omicron subvariant. However, they point out that unlike previous waves, there is no clustering of cases reported in any part of Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, a small percentage of cases required hospitalization, with the majority recovering without complications.
Dr. K Rambabu, the director of Visakha Institute of Medical Sciences, shared insights into the characteristics of the JN.1 subvariant. He mentioned that based on its spread so far, JN.1 appears to be less infectious and lacks significant immune evasion capabilities compared to its predecessors. Dr. Rambabu also noted that acquired immunity from previous infections and vaccine-induced immunity might be contributing to herd immunity, potentially explaining the recent slowdown in COVID-19 cases in the region.
Since the detection of its first case in March 2020, Andhra Pradesh has reported a total of 23.41 lakh COVID-19 cases, with 14,733 patients succumbing to various complications of the pandemic disease. Health authorities are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of continued vigilance and adherence to public health guidelines.