"We need to be cautious, not panic": Ex-WHO chief scientist on new Covid variant scare

World Friday 22/December/2023 07:43 AM
"We need to be cautious, not panic": Ex-WHO chief scientist on new Covid variant scare

New Delhi: Amid the rising new JN.1 COVID-19 variant scare, former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan asserted that there is no need to panic currently as it is a variant of interest and not of concern.

However, she urged people to be cautious by taking proper precautionary measures.

Speaking to ANI exclusively, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, former DG, of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, "We need to be cautious, but we don't need to worry because we don't have any data to suggest that this variant JN.1 is more severe or it's going to cause more pneumonia, more death."

"I think what we need to do is try to take the normal preventive measures that we are all now familiar with. We were familiar with Omicron, so it's the same family. So not much has changed, but 1 or 2 new mutations have come up. And that's why I think WHO has said let's keep a watch on it. It's a variant of interest. It's not a variant of concern," said the doctor.

She further advised precautions to avoid infection, "Avoid being in a very closed environment with very poor ventilation with toxic people without a mask. So do wear a mask if you're in that type of very close setting because prolonged exposure to somebody infected increases the risk of infection"

"Try to be in an open space rather than in most cases, have gatherings and now ventilated places today, entering into the season of gatherings," said Swaminathan.

"If you have some warning symptoms and signs like severe fatigue, prolonged fever or you're feeling breathless, visit the hospital," she said.

Speaking on hospitalisation due to COVID, she said, "The number of cases goes up and there's always a small percentage of people who need to be hospitalised. So if you have 100 people with infection, one person will need to be hospitalised unlike people, let people need to be hospitalised. So that way you know, you will see that there's an increase in people getting sick."

"We have to realise that other respiratory infections are circulating now in the winter, and therefore, these precautions will help us against influenza against the common cold against all infections so we can stay healthy," she added.

India has so far confirmed 21 cases of the JN.1 Covid variant, sparking both attention and concern across the nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified JN.1 as a variant of interest, distinct from its parent lineage BA.2.86. However, the global health body emphasised that the overall risk posed by JN.1 remains low based on current evidence.

Meanwhile, India on Thursday recorded 594 fresh COVID-19 infections - taking the number of active cases from 2,311 the previous day to 2,669, according to Union health ministry data.