COVID-19 Variant JN.1 Responsible for Nearly All U.S. Infections

Feb 19, 2024
Meanwhile, several coronavirus metrics in the U.S. are on the decline as it appears the U.S. has passed its winter peak of hospitalizations.

Omicron subvariant JN.1 is causing nearly all new coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The strain, which was responsible for just over 3% of infections in mid-November, has virtually taken over the COVID-19 variant scene in the U.S. in recent months. It was responsible for more than 96% of new infections over the past two weeks, according to the estimates.

JN.1, which is closely related to BA.2.86, or “pirola,” is also the top variant globally. The World Health Organization in a risk assessment update published last week said that the additional public health risk posed by the strain is still assessed as low at the global level.

“Current population immunity globally as well as immunity generated by the XBB.1.5 booster vaccination is expected to remain crossreactive to this variant, against symptomatic and severe disease,” WHO said. “Therefore, the continued spread of this variant alone will unlikely increase the burden on national public health systems compared to other Omicron sub-lineages.”

The organization noted that while JN.1 infections are on the rise given its high transmissibility, the strain does not seem to cause more severe disease.

Meanwhile, the U.S. appears past its winter peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“Several key indicators are showing decreasing levels of activity nationally,” the CDC said in an update posted Friday.

Wastewater viral activity levels in the U.S. remain at high levels particularly in the South, according to the CDC. But the levels, which reflect both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections, are trending downward.

“Despite the high levels of wastewater viral activity, COVID-19 is causing severe disease less frequently than earlier in the pandemic,” the agency said.