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New COVID Variant JN.1 is On the Rise This Holiday Season: What Symptoms To Look Out For

COVID cases are on the rise again. The season for flu, RSV, cold and COVID cases is well underway and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the rates of infection have been on a steady incline.

A long list of COVID-19 variants and mutations have developed since the virus arrived in the U.S. over three years ago, helping to drive ongoing infections despite advancements in preventative care, treatments and vaccines.

The latest COVID variant, dubbed JN.1, is one such mutation currently making its way across the nation and several other countries. Like other circulating strains, it descends from omicron but appears to be more contagious than some other COVID forms, as indicated by its rapid spread.

Already the second-largest source of COVID cases, JN.1 is a health factor to take into consideration when planning to visit family this holiday season. Here’s what we know about the symptoms to look out for.

What is COVID variant JN.1?

JN.1 is currently the fastest-growing COVID-19 variant in the U.S. The mutation descends from the omicron family substrain BA.2.86, or Pirola, which landed in the U.S. this summer.

JN.1 was first detected in September and has been recorded in 12 countries so far, according to the CDC. It now accounts for more than one-fifth of all cases as of Dec. 9 when the CDC released the latest data. The variant is now responsible for between 15% and 29% of COVID cases, up significantly from the previously reported 8%.

The rapid spread of JN.1 indicates that it may be more easily spread, said the CDC, either due to being more transmissible or better at evading existing immunities.

What are the symptoms of JN.1?

The HV.1 variant still tops the chart as the widest-spread strain of COVID, but JN.1 is quickly catching up.

As previously reported by USA TODAY, there is no evidence that JN.1 causes more serious illness or has significantly different symptoms than other circulating variants. Some may easily mistake symptoms of a mild case with other common wintertime illnesses, such as the flu, cold or respiratory infection.According to the CDC, symptoms of a JN.1 COVID-19 infection may include:

  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fever.
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell.
  • Congestion and runny nose.
  • Fatigue.
  • “Brain fog” (feeling less wakeful and aware).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (upset stomach, mild diarrhea).

The latest COVID-19 vaccine and treatments are expected to work against JN.1 despite its mutated form.

As always, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are signs of a more serious infection and should be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

The CDC also noted that the type and severity of symptoms depend more on each person’s immunity and health history rather than which variant they catch.