The Corona variant Pirola (BA.2.86) has produced an even more contagious subline with JN.1.

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For weeks, Austria has been in the middle of a coronavirus wave that has never been seen before on this scale. Around 40,000 sick days due to the virus were reported to the Austrian Health Insurance Fund last week. Hospital admissions have increased by over 30 percent within a week, and the viral load curve in wastewater has reached a level never seen before.

The creeping wave was triggered by the XBB lines. In the meantime, however, another variant has taken over and is likely to dominate the incidence of infection in Austria, too.

The new, particularly contagious variant JN.1 and the other Pirola variants already accounted for around 35 percent ten days ago. “In the meantime, the Pirola variants have certainly become dominant,” explains molecular biologist Ulrich Elling in an interview with “Heute”. They are now further fueling the infection process.

“JN.1 is growing faster than the other variants and is doubling in size almost every week,” says the expert. However, the question now is its effect: “The peak has clearly been reached. JN.1 can drag out the wave or lead to another peak in a few weeks.”

The first cases of the Pirola derivative were detected in Austria in mid-November, but the variant was discovered by infectiologist Thomas Russo from the University at Buffalo in New York back in September 2023. Even back then, it was suspected that the Omikron subline might be even more contagious due to many changes in the spike protein – and it has since been proven that it is. This was already true for the superordinate Pirola variant, which contained over 30 mutations. However, JN.1 tops this once again.
Russo describes the US health magazine “Prevention” variant as “insidious”. According to the scientist, it allows the virus to penetrate cells faster. Due to the many mutations, the body also needs longer for its immune response, which means that people get sick more quickly and stay sick for longer.

Nevertheless, JN.1 is not more dangerous. “They are always SARS-CoV-2 viruses, and they always cause COVID-19. The danger of a variant is only defined by how well-prepared our immune system is,” says Elling.

There would be no convincing data that any variant makes different progressions. “It had cold symptoms, including bronchitis, since the beginning. This is not a new symptom, please. Of course, the classic symptoms can also be severe; they don’t manifest differently in every person.”

This is also the assessment of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As it is a sub-variant of the Omikron variant, symptoms such as sore throat, aching limbs, breathing difficulties, fever, and cough are possible.

  • source: heute.at/picture: pixabay.com
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