Ho Chi Minh City Detects JN.1 Sub-Variant; Hospitalized Covid Cases Increase


Ho Chi Minh City Detects JN.1 Sub-Variant; Hospitalized Covid Cases Increase

In a concerning development, the infectious disease surveillance system reported that, among the 16 Covid patients hospitalized in December in Ho Chi Minh City, 12 were infected with the JN.1 variant, and one case was infected with JN.1.1.

Director Tang Chi Thuong of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health shared these findings on January 24, revealing that the infectious disease surveillance team from Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Oxford University Clinical Research Unit conducted the research. This marks the first time Vietnam has identified the presence of the JN.1 variant. The remaining cases among the 16 patients include two infected with BA.2.86.1 and one infected with XDD.

JN.1 is a sub-type of the Omicron variant BA.2.86, classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). JN.1 has been linked to an increase in cases and deaths in several countries, including Thailand, and emerged as the dominant variant in the US in December. Since December 18, 2023, this variant has rapidly spread globally.

Virus gene sequencing technician at Ho Chi Minh City Tropical Diseases Hospital. Photo: Quynh Tran

According to WHO, JN.1 exhibits new antigenic characteristics that enhance its ability to attack the immune system and facilitate easier transmission, quickly becoming the dominant variant globally. However, there is no evidence suggesting that this variant causes more severe disease than other Omicron subvariants.

From December 18, 2023, to January 22, 2024, the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control (HCDC) reported 94 Covid inpatient cases in hospitals, with 17 severe cases requiring oxygen but no reported deaths. All severe cases belonged to the at-risk group with severe underlying diseases and had not received adequate Covid vaccinations according to the Ministry of Health guidelines.

Director Tang Chi Thuong expressed concern about the gradual increase in hospitalizations at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases due to Covid-19 in the last six weeks. The WHO is monitoring five variants of concern, including XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, EG.5, BA.2.86, and JN.1. Apart from the EG.5 variant, other subvariants of concern were identified in Ho Chi Minh City based on new surveillance results in December.

All current variants cause similar Covid-19 symptoms, with disease severity depending on individuals’ immune system and health status. Existing Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostic testing techniques, and Covid-19 treatment drugs remain effective against JN.1, according to a US survey.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, the health sector emphasizes the need for continued preventive measures to protect individuals, families, and communities. With the global increase in infections and hospitalizations, especially in Southeast Asia, the health sector advises wearing masks, practicing regular hand hygiene, avoiding touching the face, getting vaccinated, maintaining personal hygiene, and avoiding contact with symptomatic individuals. The Department of Health has directed HCDC to closely monitor hospitalizations, severe cases, and Covid-19 variants, ensuring hospitals are prepared to handle severe cases requiring hospitalization.

Le Phuong

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