Jammu, Dec 21: New COVID variant JN.1 has not come across as a lethal variant so far, hence there is no need to get panicky yet at the same time, there is no scope to lower guard.
With this caution, the Principal Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu, Dr Ashutosh Gupta and his other senior colleagues Thursday, in a presser here, reassured about the state of readiness of J&K Health department to tackle any challenge.
Emphasising upon preventive and supportive care, they, however, asked the people to focus more on strictly following COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB).
“Though we are fully prepared yet are regularly reviewing our operational preparedness in terms of logistics and resources. It is very likely that in the first week of January, the Union Health Ministry may ask us to conduct a mock drill,” Dr Ashutosh said.
He said that the reports about resurgence of COVID19 had created fear among the masses.
“So, our main objective is to allay apprehensions that have emerged out of panic following reports of a surge in cases in the past few days. Resurgence involves Omicron’s variant JN.1. First case was reported from Kerala and surge was noticed in few other adjoining states including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa. Till the day before yesterday, data showed around 3000 cases of Omicron variant of COVID 19 – JN.1. While Kerala reported around 2000 cases; 800 cases were registered in Karnataka; 40-45 cases in Maharashtra. There is no need for panic at the moment however as the festival season is approaching; new year is also just a few days away and people travel a lot during this period. In no time, the criss-crossing of people may result in spread of this variant across the country. Hence, this made it appropriate for us (health department) to gauge as to how this variant is going to behave in future and what is our operational preparedness to tackle it,” he said.
Dr Ashutosh pointed out resurgence data suggested that 92 percent cases (out of 3000) were managed at home. “They simply required home care in isolation. 15-18 patients required oxygen support; 3 percent were in ICU and they mainly included patients with comorbidities, i.e., they were already suffering from some other severe illnesses like hypertension; uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, malignancy, kidney failure of severe nature. All diabetic patients are not so susceptible to it. Overall, the variant has proved to be very infectious yet with low mortality or fatality rate. It means that this variant is a very mild one and not very lethal. It’s just an initial finding which may change in near future,” he struck a cautious note.
“Two days ago, we had convened a review meeting to take stock of our preparedness. Next day there was a meeting chaired by the Union Health Minister and it was participated by the health ministers and senior officers of all states and Union Territories, including J&K, ICMR, technical experts and all other important stakeholders, also comprising vaccine manufacturers. Message from the Health Ministry was that there was no need for panic yet at the same time, caution was not to lower guard,” GMC Principal said.
He informed that following this advisory, they issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
“COVID Appropriate Behaviour, including mandatory masking for all, particularly in crowded and congested places is obviously the main guideline. In terms of logistics, we are having an audit of oxygen availability at all the health centres. Mainly emphasis is on preventive care, awareness and supportive care,” he said.
In this connection, an SOP for diagnosis and management of Influenza-like Illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases at Government Medical College Hospital and Associated Hospitals (GMCH & AH), Jammu was also released.
As per the SOP, the physician, attending to all suspected cases of ILI and SARI, will advise Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or RT-PCR for COVID and RT-PCR for Influenza.
For GMCH, suspected cases from OPD and emergency will be referred to sample collection kiosks located outside GMCH Emergency and GMCH ward samples will be collected by the nursing staff and transported to Emergency Kiosk.
“Associated hospitals should also send their suspected cases to kiosks in their hospitals which in turn should send the collected samples to the Microbiology COBAS Lab (outside isolation ward) for testing,” SOP specified.
It was informed that RAT testing for COVID would be performed at the kiosk only and reports released to patients. Daily consolidated reports will be sent by the AMS, GMCH Emergency to SSO, DHS for uploading onto the IHIP portal.
“RT-PCR samples (for both COVID and Influenza) will be collected and transported to the Microbiology COBAS Lab in batches by the MTS. Microbiology COBAS lab will release the line listed reports to SSO, DHS and to the Emergency Kiosk staff. Same will also be uploaded on the Whatsapp group constituted for this purpose,” SOP mentioned.
Heads of Departments of Medicine, Paediatrics, Chest Diseases will clinically assess the positive cases and advise home management or admission to the Isolation ward of GMCH as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) guidelines.