WHO calls for raising surveillance amid global rise in Covid cases

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Amid the fresh global rise in Covid-19 cases, majorly due to the JN.1 Covid sub-variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for raising surveillance to tackle the infectious disease.

The global health body said that the virus is evolving and changing and urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing.

About 68 per cent of the current Covid cases are cases of XBB sub-lineages and other groupings like JN.1, Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead, said in a video message, also posted on X.

JN.1 is a sub-lineage of the BA.2.86 Omicron variant and was first detected in Luxembourg in August, before spreading to other countries.

BA.2.86, also known as the ‘Pirola’ variant, was first detected in Denmark in July. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) JN.1, is part of the same lineage of BA.2.86 and contains an extra spike mutation — L455S mutation, which has immune-evasion properties.

Kerkhove added that the surge in respiratory infections was not just due to Covid, but also “influenza, other viruses, and bacteria” due to increased gatherings during the holiday season and other infections.

“Respiratory diseases are increasing around the world due to a number of pathogens incl #Covid19, #flu, rhinovirus, mycoplasma pneumonia & others. SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve. JN.1 (sub-variant of BA.2.86) is already a VOI and continues to increase in circulation,” Kerkhove said.

The WHO expert urged the member states to continue with strong surveillance and sequence sharing so that proper steps can be taken to “potentially modify” the advice for the world.

She also advised people to get vaccinations and, in cases of infection, take clinical care.

“Protect yourself from infection using a number of tools. But also make sure that if you get infected, you get clinical care and get vaccinated when it’s your turn to prevent severe disease and death. All Covid19 vaccines continue to provide against severe disease and death, and this includes all the circulating variants, including JN.1,” Kerkhove said.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health has initiated preparedness measures after a case of the JN.1 sub-variant of Covid was found in Kerala as part of the ongoing routine surveillance conducted by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG).

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