February 25, 2024

More and more people with Covid subline JN.1. Infected – here's what you need to know


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More and more people with Covid subline JN.1. Infected – here's what you need to know

Today 26 December 2023 | 9:14 pm

More and more people are becoming infected with the JN.1 coronavirus variant. But there are ways to protect yourself, your family, and the community during the holidays.

With the Christmas season and the cold winter months in the Northern Hemisphere upon us, it's coronavirus time again. In fact, the coronavirus has never left us.

“The holiday season, when many people travel, is likely an additional factor in the transmission of Covid-19,” says Rajib Dasgupta, an epidemiologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in India.

The variant of primary interest is now JN.1. It is a subvariant of Omicron – one of the most common forms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The number of JN.1 infections is increasing in many countries. However, the overall risk to the population is assessed as low. Current vaccines continue to provide protection, according to a recent statement from the World Health Organization.

Where are coronavirus infection rates high?

There has been an increase in hospitalizations in Germany due to COVID-19 cases linked to the JN.1 sublineage. According to official statistics, 302,100 people in Germany were infected with the JN.1 virus as of December 20, an increase of 195,000 cases compared to November 20 and 110,000 cases compared to October 20 this year.

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Dasgupta noted that India is also witnessing a rise in cases, especially in the states of Kerala and Karnataka, where authorities have intensified surveillance of the disease and advised people to take appropriate measures.

Ziad Al Ali, a public health expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said the disease is not limited to Germany and India.

“The situation is becoming more worrying. [JN.1] “This seems to be spreading almost everywhere in the world,” Al Ali said. “In Singapore the numbers are really high. Cases and hospitalizations are also increasing in the United States.”

How are Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections recorded?

Actual COVID-19 infection rates are likely higher than those reported due to a lack of widespread testing.

Most countries stopped systematically reporting Covid-19 test results in late 2022 or early 2023, and fewer people are now being tested anyway. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the true rates of COVID-19 disease around the world.

The main source of data now is wastewater monitoring. “It is not a perfect method, but it is a very good indicator of the extent of the spread of the virus in each community,” Al-Ali said. While this wastewater monitoring cannot test individual infection rates of COVID-19 or indicate who is infected, public health experts can use this data to track viral load and predict the overall level of risk.

Another way for governments to track COVID-19 infections is to look at the number of hospitalizations due to the virus. In this way, at least the most serious cases can be recorded.

“Combining data from wastewater analyzes and hospital admissions provides very insightful information. We saw a spike in coronavirus infections in wastewater a few weeks ago and a higher number of hospitalizations a couple of weeks later. This is how it works,” says Al-Ali. “.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Health expert Al Ali says one of the most important things you can do is get vaccinated regularly. “It is very important to be up to date on the vaccine as well as vaccination against other infectious agents such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus if you are eligible,” Al Ali said. The good news is that the latest generation of vaccines is effective against the JN.1 subtype.

However, Dasgupta admits that booster vaccines are not available everywhere in the world. “India has halted booster vaccinations. In fact, the number of third booster doses has been much lower than the first two doses.

The World Health Organization recommends wearing a mask in public or avoiding social gatherings if you feel sick. This can help limit the spread of the virus.

What if I test positive for COVID-19?

“The first thing you should do if you test positive is to find out if you qualify for antiviral medications,” Al Ali said. “We know that antiviral medications also reduce the risk of serious illness, meaning the risk of hospitalization and also the risk of long Covid.” term.”

Antiviral medications are particularly suitable and effective for people at risk of developing a severe course of Covid infection. This includes older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with heart or lung disease.

“And of course you should isolate yourself,” Al-Ali advises. “You don't want to transmit the virus. So don't go to a Christmas party. Work from home, or not work at all. These are the same measures as at the beginning [der Pandemie] And those dictated by common sense.

What does the World Health Organization advise?

To prevent serious infections and diseases, the World Health Organization advises:

  • Wear a mask in crowded and closed places
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Updating coronavirus and influenza vaccines (especially those at risk)
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Test yourself if you have symptoms

The article was originally published in English. Author: Fred Schwaler

Deutsche Welle Science/Environment

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