Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

A new Covid variant is spreading fast in the US, and it’s “highly contagious”, a doctor who specialises in infectious diseases has warned.

New variant JN.1 is a heavily mutated new strain and is now the fastest-growing variant in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The variant currently accounts for more than one-fifth of all infections in the US.

And while the HV.1 sub variant is the dominant strain right now, JN.1 is not far behind.

HV.1 accounted for 30 percent of Covid cases in the US during the two week period ending on December 9, according to the CDC, and JN.1 made up about 21 percent.

The JN.1 strain has sparked concern among scientists due to its rapid growth rate and large number of mutations.

Scientists have said the variant is a direct offshoot of BA.2.86, also known as “Pirola”, which hit the US over the summer.

All of the most dominant Covid variants currently in the US are descendants of Omicron, which began in late 2021.

Some doctors are concerned JN.1 could cause a Covid surge as the US enters the winter season and respiratory virus cases rise.

First detected in September 2023, JN.1 is part of the Omicron family and has been detected in at least 12 countries so far, including the US, according to the CDC.

It is unclear whether JN.1 causes symptoms different from other variants, according to the CDC, but its symptoms seem to be similar to those caused by other strains.

These symptoms include: sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever or chills, and a loss of sense of taste or smell.

The severity of a person’s symptoms usually depends on their underlying health and immunity.

Experts have also said that there is no evidence that JN.1 causes more severe infections than other variants, but it’s still very contagious.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told “One of the things these (omicron variants) have in common is that they are highly contagious, and as new variants crop up, they seem to be as contagious or even more contagious than the previous variants.”

Data from the CDC shows that JN.1 may be more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems, but it’s still too early to tell.

Covid test positivity has increased by 11.5 percent in the past week, according to the CDC.

Hospitalizations have also risen by 13 percent and ICU admissions by 9 percent in the last two weeks, NBC News reported.

Dr. Michael Phillips, chief epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, told “The good news is that as of yet we’re not seeing severe disease or hospitalizations going up significantly, and ICU admissions are still very low, but we’re going to watch these carefully.”

All Covid diagnostic tests are expected to be effective at detecting JN.1, as well as other variants.

The CDC recommends anyone who becomes ill or exposed to Covid take a test, especially people at higher risk of severe disease, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

The updated Covid vaccine is also expected to increase protection against JN.1, as well as other variants, the CDC said.

Dr Schaffner said: “Getting vaccinated is the best present you can give yourself and your family this holiday season.”

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