A rapidly spreading COVID variant is emerging in the United States, and here are its prevalent symptoms.
At present, the spotlight is on the newly identified COVID variant JN.1, an extensively mutated strain that has rapidly spread across the United States in recent weeks. As the nation approaches the peak of the respiratory virus season, an increase in cases of this new variant is anticipated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), JN.1 is currently the fastest-growing variant in the country, contributing to over one-fifth of all infections. Although the HV.1 subvariant remains the predominant strain, JN.1 is closely trailing behind. In the two-week period ending on December 9, HV.1 accounted for approximately 30% of COVID-19 cases, while JN.1 comprised about 21%, followed by EG.5.
Scientists are closely monitoring JN.1 due to its swift propagation and numerous mutations. Despite concerns, the variant is closely related to the previously observed BA.2.86, also known as "Pirola," which has been circulating in the U.S. since the summer.
JN.1, an offspring of BA.2.86, exhibits one additional mutation in its spike protein compared to its parent strain. This spike protein mutation may impact JN.1's immune evasion properties. Despite its relation to a strain with multiple mutations, JN.1 is causing increased worry because of its rapid surge.
The symptoms of JN.1 appear to align with those caused by other variants, including sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever or chills, and loss of sense of taste or smell. Currently, there is no evidence suggesting that JN.1 leads to more severe infections.
Concerns about JN.1's transmissibility arise as it continues to grow, suggesting potential increased contagiousness or immune evasion. Although it remains too early to ascertain how JN.1 compares to other variants, experts emphasize that it does not pose an elevated public health risk.
The surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, coupled with the concurrent spread of influenza and high respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity, raises concerns about potential strain on emergency rooms and hospitals, particularly in the Southern United States.
Regarding testing, all COVID-19 diagnostic tests are expected to effectively detect JN.1, and experts recommend testing, especially for individuals exhibiting symptoms. Free at-home COVID-19 tests are available for ordering through COVIDTests.gov.
The efficacy of the updated COVID-19 vaccines against JN.1 is expected, with the shots targeting a closely related variant. The vaccines provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. However, low vaccination rates are a concern, and experts urge the public, especially high-risk individuals, to get vaccinated promptly.
To safeguard against JN.1 and other respiratory viruses, individuals are advised to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, test if symptomatic, isolate if infected, avoid contact with sick individuals, enhance ventilation, wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, and maintain good hand hygiene.