A new COVID-19 variant, JN.1, has taken the title of the most prevalent variant of the virus in the US, and also worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“JN.1 remains the most widely circulating variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States and globally,” states their latest report. In fact, as of January 20, the variant makes up almost 86 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the US, per the latest CDC figures.
The highly mutated strain is a descendant of Omicron – specifically the “Pirola” variant, BA.2.86 – and was first detected in the States back in September. By the end of October, it was responsible for less than 0.1 percent of SARS-CoV-2 viruses but has been on the rise ever since.
"Most likely, if you're getting COVID right now, you're getting this particular variant mutation," Eyal Oren, a director and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at San Diego State University, told NPR.
Among the reasons for this latest surge of JN.1, Oren added, is the virus's rapid evolution: "our immune systems have not been able to keep up."
What are the symptoms of JN.1?
It’s thought that JN.1 presents similarly to previous variants. According to the CDC, these symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
However, there has been some evidence that people are reporting slightly different COVID symptoms this season, including trouble sleeping and anxiety.
Should we be concerned?
The fact that JN.1 has become so dominant could be taken as evidence that it’s more transmissible than previous variants, or better at evading the immune system. However, the CDC assures that “currently there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.”
Still, COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been elevated in recent weeks, especially in the eastern half of the country. People are advised to take the usual precautions by wearing masks, avoiding crowds, staying in when sick, and washing their hands.
The CDC recommends staying up to date with this season’s vaccinations for both COVID-19 and flu, which they say are “well-matched to the viruses that are most common and should offer good protection”.
“Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to increase protection against JN.1, as they do against other variants, by helping prevent severe illness.”
The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.