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University of Nebraska Medical Center

What Is JN.1, the Latest COVID Variant?

Prevention

Infectious disease experts on what it is, signs, symptoms, and if you should be worried.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is mutating yet again. The latest variant getting buzz is JN.1, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flagged in a report issued late last week.

In the report, CDC officials say that they’re “learning” about JN.1, noting that it’s not overly common in the U.S. right now. Still, infectious disease experts say there’s a reason why this variant was flagged—and why researchers are keeping an eye on it.

So what is JN.1 and why is it getting attention right now? Here’s everything you need to know about the latest variant.

What is JN.1?

JN.1 is a COVID-19 variant that descended from BA.2.86, explains infectious disease expert Amesh Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. JN.1 is “another Omicron variant,” he says.

“BA.2.86 has more than 20 mutations on the spike protein and there was a concern when it was first detected a while back that, wow, this might be a real problem,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York.

JN.1 has an additional mutation on its spike protein from BA.2.86, which is what SARS-CoV-2 uses to latch onto your cells and make you sick, Dr. Russo says.

JN.1 symptoms

As of now, there’s no data to suggest that JN.1 causes different symptoms than previous COVID-19 variations, says William Schaffner, M.D., a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “It’s an Omicron variant and looks to be similar,” he says. In case you need a refresher, the CDC says those symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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