The JN.1 variant of the coronavirus has become the most common strain spreading across the United States. This variant, which emerged from the BA.2.86 variant and was first detected in September, accounted for 44 percent of Covid cases nationwide by mid-December. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that JN.1 may be more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants. However, it does not seem to be causing severe illness in most people, though even a mild case can still make one feel unwell for a few days.
Experts continue to recommend measures such as wearing masks, improving ventilation indoors, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated to protect against infection and severe disease. Preliminary research suggests that the updated Covid vaccines released in September produce antibodies effective against JN.1, although people may not build up as many antibodies to JN.1 as they would to the XBB.1.5 variant. Rapid tests on the market are said to work well at detecting JN.1.
While Covid cases and hospitalizations have been increasing recently, it is too early to determine whether JN.1 is responsible for this rise. Factors such as travel and large gatherings during the holiday season may also contribute to the increase. Hospitalizations due to Covid are still lower than during the peak of the first Omicron wave in January 2022 and lower than during the peak of the tripledemic last winter when Covid-19, flu, and R.S.V. cases surged simultaneously.
Experts anticipate that JN.1 will likely remain the dominant version of the coronavirus through spring. However, vaccine uptake remains low, with only 18 percent of adults having received the latest shots. Experts urge everyone to consider getting vaccinated, especially those who are at higher risk of severe illness or are traveling to visit vulnerable loved ones.
As the New Year begins, health experts recommend getting vaccinated as a gift to oneself. The protection offered by vaccines against JN.1 and other variants is crucial in mitigating the spread and severity of Covid-19.