JN.1 Variant Fuels COVID Surge, Former WHO Scientist Warns: Don't Dismiss It as a Cold

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JN.1 Variant Fuels COVID Surge, Former WHO Scientist Warns: Don’t Dismiss It as a Cold

| Updated: December 22, 2023 17:58

Former WHO Scientist Warns: Don't Dismiss It as a Cold

With India facing another COVID-19 wave driven by the new JN.1 variant, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, former Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, issued a strong warning: Do not underestimate this variant. While seemingly less severe than previous strains, JN.1 is not a mere common cold, and Dr. Swaminathan urges caution and continued vigilance.

Here are five key points from Dr. Swaminathan’s message:

  • JN.1 is not a common cold: Dr. Swaminathan emphasized that JN.1, despite potentially presenting with milder symptoms, poses real risk. Severe cases of COVID pneumonia and long-term effects, including increased susceptibility to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even mental health issues, remain a concern.
  • Cautious, not panicked: She advocates for caution but discourages panic. We should apply familiar preventive measures learned from previous variants like Omicron.
  • JN.1 under watch: Though not yet classified as a “variant of concern” by the WHO, JN.1 is a “variant of interest” due to its emergence and potential for spread. We must remain vigilant and monitor its behavior.
  • Mask up in high-risk settings: Dr. Swaminathan stresses the importance of mask-wearing in poorly ventilated spaces or when in close contact with individuals showing symptoms. Prolonged exposure significantly increases the risk of transmission.
  • Take JN.1 seriously: JN.1, while possibly less severe, is not harmless. Dr. Swaminathan’s message is clear: Don’t take it lightly. Continue practicing basic precautions like mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and maintaining distance, especially in vulnerable settings.

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