United States: Alarming reports emerge as the JN.1 variant takes the lead in COVID-19 cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues warnings about its rapid spread and the potential impact on infections and hospitalizations.
In the United States, health authorities are sounding the alarm as the JN.1 strain of COVID-19 gains dominance, spreading rapidly. The latest data from the CDC reveals that this variant is now responsible for approximately 44.1 percent of COVID-related cases nationwide.
The CDC’s recent report highlighted another concerning week at the end of December, marking a steep rise in COVID cases. According to CBS News, this increase was more than double compared to the week ending on December 9, following Thanksgiving, which saw a surge of 21.3 percent.
Of particular concern are the Northeast regions, encompassing New Jersey and New York, where the JN.1 variant accounts for 56.8 percent of cases, according to official data.
The CDC’s observations, reported by CBS News, suggest that “JN.1’s continued growth suggests that the variant is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants. It is too early to know whether or to what extent JN.1 will cause an increase in infections or hospitalizations.”
Following the spike in COVID-19 cases due to the JN.1 variant, other countries have also observed increases, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to designate it as a “variant of interest,” the second-highest classification.
Are the symptoms of JN.1 alarming?
As of now, health authorities have not flagged any concerns regarding more severe symptoms caused by the JN.1 variant compared to other strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, they emphasize that this new variant poses a greater threat than others.
Authorities are vigilant about JN.1 due to its unprecedented accumulation of mutations, inherited from its parent variant BA.2.86, which raised concerns in the summer. They note that this new variant shows additional mutations, heightening worries about increased transmissibility.
The US reported its first case of the JN.1 variant in September. Since then, the nation has witnessed a rapid surge in cases, with JN.1 emerging as the fastest-growing variant.
Addressing concerns, CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed stated via email, “We will continue to monitor variants, including JN.1, and provide updates when information changes.”
Effectiveness of available vaccines against JN.1?
Reports from CBS News suggest that WHO health experts have hinted at the variant’s “higher immune evasion” compared to BA.2.86. However, available vaccines remain effective against it.
Insights from major vaccine manufacturers:
Novavax spokesperson mentioned that studies on nonhuman primates and mice showed vaccines “induced cross-neutralization against JN.1” similar to other strains.
Pfizer stated ongoing vaccine tests against JN.1, with data forthcoming. However, Moderna did not provide a comment.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed caution during an interview, stating, “We’re watching it very carefully. It’s possible we could see a quantum leap as opposed to a gradual erosion of the vaccine’s protection. And if that happens, we’re going to have to move pretty quickly.” This interview was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December, as reported by CBS News.
She emphasized close monitoring of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 by health authorities.