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People infected with a certain strain of Covid could “take longer to recover” a GP has warned. The JN.1 variant, first identified by health officials in September, has the potential to cause a “more severe disease”, he said.
As reported, JN.1 is a descendant of BA.2.86, better known as the Pirola strain – which was itself descended from Omicron. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) started tracking the variant earlier this month amid concerns over how transmissible it could be.
Now an expert has warned it could also cause serious illness. Speaking to Worcester News, Doctor Jason Seewoodhary – a GP based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “JN.1 causes flu-like symptoms with a cough, fever, runny nose, headache, loss of sense of smell, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, along with extreme fatigue.
“It may take longer to recover from and cause more severe disease.” He explained that its ability to infect easily could be due to a mutation in its spike protein.
Dr Seewoodhary said: “There are also several other mutations elsewhere that make it more infectious meaning JN.1 may evade our immune systems and dodge protection built up from previous infection and vaccination more easily hence it may replicate faster.”
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He explained how prevalent the strain is in the UK.
“The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is now formally tracking the variant,” he said. “At the start of this week there had been 302 cases of JN.1 infection in the UK and it’s likely this will rapidly rise with the cold weather and social gatherings over the festive period.
“JN.1 has a weekly estimated growth rate advantage of 84.2 per cent, which means the variant is taking off faster than any other strain seen in the last eight months.
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“JN.1 currently represents about 13 percent of Covid cases but it will probably become the next common variant.”
To best protect yourself he recommended getting vaccinated.
Dr Seewoodhary said the vaccines given as part of the current booster rollout have been updated to protect against the XBB.1.5 Omicron variant, and are proven to work against JN.1’s parent BA.2.86.
“I would urge all those eligible for a Covid booster vaccine to take up the offer – currently only half of those eligible for the booster vaccine have taken it up,” he added.
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“The NHS offers treatment to people with COVID-19 who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill and patients should contact their GP if they have any concerns.”
According to the NHS, symptoms of Covid can include:
- A high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- An aching body
- A headache
- A sore throat
- A blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick.
“The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu,” the health body says. “Most people feel better within a few days or weeks of their first COVID-19 symptoms and make a full recovery within 12 weeks.
“For some people, it can be a more serious illness and their symptoms can last longer.”
If you experience symptoms or test positive you should try to stay home for five days and avoid contact with others where possible.
You should avoid contact with vulnerable people for 10 days.
Lateral flow tests are available to some people for free via the NHS or they can be bought from high street pharmacies.
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