JN.1 variant to soon become dominant strain in China: Health officials

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Beijing, Jan 15 (IANS) China is likely to see a rebound in Covid-19 infections in January, and the highly transmissible JN.1 variant will become the dominant strain, health authorities have said.

At a press briefing on Sunday, Mi Feng, a spokesperson with the National Health Commission, said that since the New Year’s Day, the number of patients received at fever clinics in medical institutions across the country has shown a fluctuating downward trend, Global Times reported.

Currently, the country is majorly seeing influenza cases, while the Covid cases are at a relatively low level.

However, recent data from the multi-channel monitoring system showed the proportion of the JN.1 variant strain having an upward trend, Wang Dayan, director of the China National Influenza Center, National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) was quoted as saying.

Due to continuous importation of the JN.1 variant strain, a gradual decrease in domestic influenza, and a decline in population immunity, the Covid-19 epidemic may rebound in January, with the JN.1 variant highly likely to develop into the dominant variant in China, Wang said.

Wang also noted that southern provinces in China entered the influenza season in early October, followed by northern provinces in late October. Initially, the predominant circulating strain was the H3N2 subtype influenza virus. But, in the past three weeks, the proportion of influenza B virus in southern provinces has increased to 36.8 per cent, and in the past five weeks, the proportion in northern provinces has risen to 57.7 per cent.

In some provinces, the proportion of influenza B virus has exceeded that of influenza A, the report said.

Wang Guiqiang, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Peking University First Hospital, told a news conference on Sunday that since winter is the peak season for respiratory infectious diseases, the immunity established after infection with various pathogens is not long-lasting, so repeated infections may occur.

However, the symptoms of a second infection with the same pathogen are often milder.

Different pathogen infections may worsen the condition, especially after damage to the upper respiratory mucosal barrier, which may lead to secondary bacterial infections. For the elderly and those with underlying diseases, infection with Covid-19 or influenza may worsen their underlying conditions, said Wang, stressing that they should pay more attention to early intervention and diagnosis of respiratory diseases.

Feng added that with the approaching winter vacation and Spring Festival, the large-scale movement and gathering of people may accelerate the spread of respiratory diseases, so it is necessary to strengthen monitoring and early warning, the report said.



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