Understanding the JN.1 COVID Variant: Symptoms, Spread, and Prevention

A highly mutated version of the COVID-19 virus called JN.1 is currently driving a surge of infections in the United States. The extremely transmissible variant now accounts for about 86 percent of COVID cases — a major jump from Thanksgiving, when fewer than 8 percent of infections were caused by JN.1.

While the variant is spreading fast, there is no evidence that JN.1 — a subvariant of the omicron strain that first appeared in late 2021— is causing symptoms that are any different from or more severe than other circulating strains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“JN.1 is fairly similar to the other omicron variants, causing run-of-the mill symptoms like sore throat, congestion and runny nose, fevers, chills, cough, and fatigue,” says Minji Kang, MD, an assistant professor and infectious-disease specialist in the department of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Pavitra Roychoudhury, PhD, an associate in the vaccine and infectious disease division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and a research assistant at the University of Washington in Seattle, adds that some changes to COVID-19 symptoms may be expected over time as the virus continues to mutate and evolve.

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