July 23, 2024

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Surge in Emergency Room Admissions as JN.1 Variant Spreads in Canada

Surge in Emergency Room Admissions as JN.1 Variant Spreads in Canada



Surge in Emergency Room Admissions as JN.1 Variant Spreads in Canada

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) singled out the JN.1 variant as a concerning strain of the new coronavirus on December 19, 2023, JN.1 infections have been on the rise in North America.

Hospitals in regions such as Quebec and Montreal in Canada have been running at full capacity for several consecutive days, with admission rates reaching as high as 212%.

In response, several hospitals in the United States have reinstated the mandatory use of masks for healthcare personnel in direct contact with patients to prevent further virus transmission.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), JN.1 is currently the fastest-growing variant. In the two weeks leading up to December 23, JN.1 accounted for 44% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, a significant increase from around 7% at the end of November 2023. Additionally, as of December 29, India has reported 162 cases of the JN.1 variant.

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Overwhelmed Emergency Rooms in Canada:

Reports from Canadian media indicate that emergency rooms in Quebec are overcrowded. Data from the health information website Index sant reveals an average wait time of 5 hours in Quebec’s emergency rooms, with patients on stretchers waiting for an average of over 17 hours.

Beyond Quebec, emergency room admission rates in Montreal, Canada, reached 139% on Tuesday, with the highest rates observed at Royal Victoria Hospital (212%), Montreal General Hospital (206%), and Lakeshore General Hospital (174%).

Dr. Christopher Labos, an epidemiologist and cardiologist, stated, “The current situation mirrors much of what we’ve seen since last winter: a surge in emergency room visits, with a significant portion due to respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, influenza, and RSV. These viruses result in illness and hospitalization.”

Dr. Labos acknowledged that Canada has experienced sudden increases in hospitalization rates before, and healthcare professionals are doing their best to cope with the unexpected surge. However, due to understaffing and exhaustion from prolonged work hours, the medical systems in the mentioned Canadian regions are currently operating under extreme strain.

Data reveals that since December 27, Quebec’s emergency room admission rates have consistently exceeded 100% daily. Dr. Labos added, “With respiratory viruses like the flu being more common in winter and now with the new variant of COVID, during this period, our healthcare system is grappling with staff shortages due to intense work and staff infections. This will only make the situation worse.”

Predictions for JN.1 Variant in Canada:

Yahoo News previously cited model predictions, indicating that by the end of December 2023, the JN.1 variant’s proportion among recent COVID-19 cases in Canada will increase to 40.5%, with a weekly growth rate 1.78 times that of the HV.1 strain.

The Quebec Ministry of Health advises patients with minor ailments to consider alternative healthcare services rather than emergency rooms. The organization suggests staying at home if experiencing fever and wearing masks if exhibiting respiratory virus symptoms.

Hamilton St. Joseph Healthcare Center Infectious Disease Physician and Director, Dr. Zain Chagla, expressed, “JN.1 is causing a rise in infections, with the proportion of winter respiratory infections increasing globally.”

Dr. Chagla explained that the L455S mutation in the JN.1 variant makes it spread faster than other strains. Unlike BA.2.86, the L455S mutation in JN.1 helps the virus enter human cells more smoothly, allowing for more efficient binding to receptors and evading antibodies. Although there is currently no evidence that JN.1 causes more severe symptoms than other variants, its high infectivity is evident in the increasing number of cases.

While public risk from JN.1 is considered low by the WHO, it may still add to the burden of respiratory infections in many countries and regions. In response to the escalating situation, healthcare systems in the United States, including major health systems, are reinstating mask policies to curb further virus spread.

Surge in Emergency Room Admissions as JN.1 Variant Spreads in Canada

(source:internet, reference only)


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