CDC raises red flag on JN.1: New COVID-19 variant sparks fears amidst holiday season

Visual Representation | CDC raises red flag on JN.1
Visual Representation | CDC raises red flag on JN.1

United States: The United States has been dealing with increased numbers of cases related to COVID-19, flu, and RSV; however, concerns have been raised because of the beginning of the holiday season and the rapid spread of a new strain of COVID-19.

The new strain has been biologically named JN.1 – which has been detected to be closely associated with BA.2.86. Health authorities have claimed that the variant is considered to be the fastest-growing in the United States.

According to the official data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the JN.1 has been responsible for approximately one in five (1 in 5) COVID-related cases in recent weeks.

Comments by the CDC Director!

While attending an event on Tuesday, the CDC Director, Mandy Cohen, stated, “We continue to see this COVID-19 virus change.”

Director of CDC Mandy Cohen

Cohen was quoted saying, “In August of this year, we probably saw one of the larger changes to the COVID virus at that time, and what we’ve seen lately in the last couple of weeks is an offshoot of that August variant,” according to US News.

The variant Cohen mentioned is called BA.2.86, also known as “pirola.” When the version showed up, groups like the CDC and the World Health Organization said it was important to keep an eye on it because it has a lot of mutations. However, the current COVID-19 data revealed that JN.1 could become a major problem.

Detailed information about JN.1

According to the health authorities, JN.1 is the same as pirola. In this regard, the CDC mentioned, “Even though BA.2.86 and JN.1 sound very different because of the way variants are named, there is only a single change between JN.1 and BA.2.86 in the spike protein,” as per the reports published by US News.

The case related to the variant was first detected in the United States in the month of September 2023. As per the official data by the CDC, since then, the nation has witnessed a surge of approximately 15 percent to 29 percent. The agency has further emphasized that the cases related to JN.1 will experience an increase in the upcoming months.

Visual Representation of Coronavirus

While providing relief to the general public, the agency underlined that the tests and treatment associated with COVID-19 are currently working on JN.1. The health agency further mentioned, “The continued growth of JN.1 suggests that it is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems,” according to US News.

In addition to this, the CDC also assessed that “at this time, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants.”

“Right now, we do not know to what extent JN.1 may be contributing to these increases or possible increases through the rest of December like those seen in previous years,” the agency said, adding, “CDC will closely monitor COVID-19 activity and the spread of JN.1.”

Symptoms of JN.1

According to the health agency, there are no confirmed symptoms of the JN.1 variant currently.

CDC outlined, “In general, symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be similar across variants. The types of symptoms and how severe they are usually depend more on a person’s immunity and overall health rather than which variant causes the infection.”

Can available shots tackle JN.1?

The CDC expected that the available COVID-19 shots could offer protection against the new concern-rising variant – JN.1.

Visual Representation of COVID-19 vaccine

CDC Director Cohen stated, “The good news is, even with the changes that have come in the last several weeks, the updated vaccine is still good coverage for that based on lab studies.”

In this regard, the vaccine expert Dr Peter Hotez said that the recent mutations by the JN.1 variant showcase that it is a bad strain because of its high transmissibility and immune escape capabilities. 

According to US News, Hotez was quoted saying, “This new XBB annual immunization that became available this September should offer some cross-protection to keep you out of the hospital.”

Surge in COVID-19-related hospital admissions 

The health agency has underscored that with the increase in the cases, hospital admission has also witnessed a sharp growth since the last one (1) month.