COVID-19. Virality, symptoms… What we know about JN.1, a new variant discovered in France

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Yet another new variant of Covid-19 discovered. And this time it’s called JN.1.

“This Omicron subvariant was first discovered last summer and subsequently found in 12 countries, including France, derived from the BA.2.86 subvariant nicknamed Pirola,” explains Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Geneva Institute of Global Health.

Elsewhere it is also present in the United States, or even in Europe, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain and even Iceland. Virality, symptoms…this is what we know about this umpteenth variant.

Where was the JN.1 variant detected in France?

In France, where JN.1 was detected, “one of the outbreaks of this variant has been identified the most active in the world is Île-de-France, where it is about to become the majority,” says Antoine Flahault.

But it is also found in small quantities in almost all regions of France, whether in Hauts-de-France, the Grand Est, the Center Val-de-Loire, in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes is. , New Aquitaine, Burgundy Franche-Comté, Normandy, Brittany, Occitanie, Pays-de-la-Loire.

However, Professor Flahault urges caution as surveillance of Covid-19 “has been slowing down for several months, despite heavy traffic viruses”. Moreover, in this context of “very low sequencing”, this new variant is probably “much more widespread” than we think.

Please note that from now on, very few screening tests are carried out in France and daily data are no longer reported through the Sidep platform, as was the case during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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This does not really provide a good overview of the spread of the epidemic, which nevertheless remains under surveillance.

How does this JN.1 variant differ from the others?

According to the data analyzed so far, this variant contains “a large number of mutations that are likely to cause this increased transmissibility because of the immune escape,” the epidemiologist explains.

That said, no country that has observed this (and in particular not Île-de-France, which is particularly well equipped with healthcare facilities) has reported a particularly worrying clinical severity profile with this new variant.

Antoine FlahaultEpidemiologist and director of the Geneva Institute of Global Health

More transferable therefore, but at this stage no reason to think that JN.1 is more virulent than the other variants. “It’s probably a bit early to be definitive, but we haven’t reported any increased virulence with JN.1 so far,” confirms Professor Flahault.

Does he have any symptoms?

There too, no special symptoms noted at this time. As with previous variants, the reported symptoms are the same fatigue, fever and coughing.

However, we should not “minimise the symptoms of Covid”, warns Professor Flahault. Because these symptoms can completely immobilize ‘previously healthy patients’.

They are very ill in bed at home for two to three days, with restless and disturbed sleep and loss of food. We understand that very elderly or very vulnerable people can experience these episodes of Covid-19 very severely and can even be life-threatening.

Antoine FlahaultEpidemiologist and director of the Geneva Institute of Global Health

The epidemiologist also points out that we do not yet know what proportion of infected people will develop with this new variant Long Covid. While with the previous Omicron subvariants, “about 10% of those infected had long-term after-effects of Covid, sometimes very disabling”.

Should specific health measures be taken in this context?

In this context, with the bronchiolitis epidemic spreading and the flu epidemic looming, should specific health measures be taken again?

Not necessarily, believes Antoine Flahault, provided that basic barrier gestures are already respected to protect against the risks of infection, and that eligible people are vaccinated to reduce the risk of becoming infected or contracting a severe form of the disease.

That is currently far from the case, regrets Professor Flahault. He laments the fact that after “the panic of the first years of the pandemic, a total denial has gripped the population, both in France and almost everywhere in the world. At the risk of waking up with a hangover. »

Be careful, we are entering a period of intense spread of the coronavirus in Europe and in a few weeks the flu virus will join it. These viruses are highly contagious.

Antoine FlahaultEpidemiologist and director of the Geneva Institute of Global Health

Mask and building ventilation are still required

The epidemiologist also advises to reduce the risk of infection take off your maskin favor of FFP2.

A recommendation that especially applies in busy places or if the CO2 concentration is higher than 800 ppm, whether this is “in schools, public transport, hospitals, nursing homes, bars and restaurants, the office, churches or sports halls”.

It may then be interesting to “equip yourself individually with CO2 sensors that we carry with us, since no one equips busy premises that receive the public with them,” says Professor Flahault, who recalls that ventilation of premises to protect against the virus remains one of the effective solutions.

After all, we don’t forget wash hands with hydroalcoholic gel.

And always get vaccinated

Recall that a new vaccination campaign started on October 2, ie two weeks ago than expected due to an increase in the circulation of the virus.

However, in its latest epidemiological bulletin of November 8, 2023, Public Health France notes “a decrease or a trend towards stabilization of all indicators” of Covid-19, with an incidence rate down 19%, i.e. 14,596 cases of infection between October 30 and November 5, 2023.

The entire health authority invites people to remain particularly vigilant, apply barrier measures and get vaccinated against Covid and flu, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

At the end of the week of October 30 to November 5, 2023, “Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage of the Fall 2023 Campaign for people aged 65 and over it is 13.5 %”, details Public Health France. This represents 9.9% of 65-69 year olds, 12.5% ​​of 70-74 year olds, 16.1% of 75-79 year olds and 16.3% of those over 80.

And since October 17, 2023, 34.6% of vaccinations against Covid-19 among people over 65 have been carried out at the same time as a flu vaccine, Public Health France further specifies. Figures that could be even bigger.

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