JN.1 alert: Masks are back… Triple epidemic in the USA, patients lying on the floor in Spain!

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While the JN.1 variant, which the World Health Organisation has categorised as a ‘variant to be considered’, continues to spread worldwide, experts suggest that the variant could be a game changer. It was announced that more than 44 per cent of the cases in the USA were also the JN.1 variant and hospitalisations increased. Some states of America and Spain have returned to mandatory mask application.

Covid-19, which entered our lives in late 2019 and cost millions of lives around the world, continues to be a threat to the world in its 5th year, even though it is under control with intensive vaccination campaigns and measures taken.



Omicron’s sub-variant JN.1 continues to spread worldwide. While the variant seen in 41 countries so far has made its impact felt in European countries such as France, Sweden, Spain and the UK, it was announced that more than 44 per cent of the cases in the USA were JN.1 variants.

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JN.1 CAN CHANGE THE RULES OF THE GAME

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorised JN.1 as a ‘variant to be considered’ due to its rapid spread and claimed that there is nothing to worry about yet, experts speaking to Fortune magazine think that JN.1 is a game changer.

Dr Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research claims that the new variant, which has more than 30 additional mutations, shows a “serious evolution of the virus”, while professor Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph in Canada says the highly mutated variant opens a “new era”.

TRIPLE OUTBREAK FROM THE USA: MASKS ARE BACK

While hospitalisations continued in the USA, where respiratory diseases such as JN.1 influenza and RSV increased, the mask obligation was reintroduced in various states.

The sudden increase in the “triple epidemic” (Covid, influenza and RSV) has alarmed the authorities. Large states such as Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, California have reverted to the mask requirement in some public facilities and hospitals.

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According to CDC data, 29,095 Covid-related hospitalisations were reported in the US in the last week of 2023, up 16.7%. During the same period, there were 10,923 RSV cases and a 6.1% increase in influenza cases.

JN.1 alert: Masks are back... Triple epidemic in the USA, patients lying on the floor in Spain!

PATIENTS SLEEP ON THE FLOOR IN SPAIN

In Spain, the Covid and flu outbreak has worsened so much that pandemic rules have been reverted to in some holiday areas. Local media report that hospitals and health centres are full, with patients lying in corridors or waiting for hours for treatment.

The Spanish government has not made any announcement regarding the mandatory mask requirement, but the administrations of tourist destinations such as Benidorm and Alicante are reintroducing their own rules. The Valencian health department announced the introduction of mandatory masks in health centres due to an increase in respiratory infections.

The wave is expected to peak in the third week of January. The Spanish Association of Family Physicians is calling for mandatory mask wearing in hospitals and medical centres in Spain to stop the spread of influenza and Covid.

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LIMITED EVIDENCE OF VACCINE IMMUNITY

According to WHO, there is still limited evidence on how far JN.1 can overcome the immunity offered by vaccines. There is no evidence that this variant makes people sicker than its predecessors.

However, WHO officials say more work is needed to determine the health impact of this variant, as the number of countries reporting data on people admitted to hospital with Covid has declined significantly.

To prevent infections and serious illnesses, WHO recommends the following:

  • Wear a mask in crowded and confined spaces
  • Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze
  • Clean your hands regularly
  • Get up-to-date Covid and flu vaccinations, especially if you are in a risk category
  • Get tested if you have Covid symptoms
 

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