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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 23, 2023  2 months, 2 days, 1 hour, 17 minutes ago

COVID-19 News-United States: CDC Says JN.1 Variant Now Makes Up 44.2 Percent Of All Cases As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue To Rise

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COVID-19 News-United States: CDC Says JN.1 Variant Now Makes Up 44.2 Percent Of All Cases As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue To Rise
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Dec 23, 2023  2 months, 2 days, 1 hour, 17 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: The relentless march of the COVID-19 pandemic takes a new turn in the United States with the swift ascent of the JN.1 variant. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that JN.1 now constitutes a staggering 44.2% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide. This marks a significant leap from the 21.3% reported just after Thanksgiving, underscoring the variant's rapid spread and raising concerns among health authorities. 

Rapid Rise of JN.1: A Closer Look
The U.S. CDC's most recent estimates highlight the remarkable growth of the JN.1 variant, making up 44.2% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. As of the week ending December 9, this figure is more than two times larger than the 21.3% reported just after Thanksgiving. The Northeast region, particularly spanning New Jersey and New York, bears the brunt of the surge, with JN.1 accounting for a staggering 56.9% of cases in these states.
This rapid rise prompts questions about the variant's transmissibility and its ability to evade the immune system. The U.S. CDC acknowledges the uncertainty, stating, "JN.1's continued growth suggests that the variant is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants." It is a cause for concern, yet the full extent of its impact on infections and hospitalizations remains unclear.
Global Spread and WHO's Classification
The global landscape mirrors the U.S. surge, as countries worldwide report an increasing prevalence of the JN.1 variant. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) elevated JN.1 to a "variant of interest," citing its "rapidly increasing spread."
This classification places it as the second-highest tier of concern, emphasizing the need for continued monitoring and research.
The JN.1 variant's journey began with the highly mutated parent, BA.2.86, which gained attention over the summer but struggled to establish a global foothold.
The additional mutations in JN.1, inherited from its parent, have altered its trajectory, making it the fastest-growing variant in the U.S. CDC's recent estimates. The global implications of this rapid spread warrant close scrutiny and international collaboration to contain the variant's impact.
CDC and WHO Discrepancy: Variant Classification
A notable point of contention arises between the U.S. CDC and the WHO regarding the classification of JN.1. While the WHO elevated it to a standalone "variant of interest," the CDC has chosen to maintain its classification as a "variant being monitored," grouped with its parent, BA.2.86. This discrepancy raises questions about the criteria for variant classification and the implications of the variant's trajectory.
U.S. CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed affirmed the Biden administration's decision, stating, "We will continue to monitor variants, including JN.1 and provide updates when information changes." The ongoing monitoring emphasizes the dynamic nature of the situation and the need for flexibility in response strategies.
Preliminary Findings on Hospitalization Risks
Preliminary findings from Belgium and Singapore, shared with the WHO, suggest that JN.1 might lead to similar or reduced hospitalization risks compared to other strains.
However, these findings are yet to be published in a scientific journal, leaving the scientific community and public health officials eager for more details.

The U.S. CDC's own data on COVID-19 hospitalizations in the week ending December 9 indicates a 3% increase, with 7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
While these figures are below the record surge witnessed in the winter of 2021-2022, health officials caution that rising respiratory virus hospitalizations could strain healthcare resources in the coming weeks.
Vaccine Immunity and Cross-Reactivity
Amid the uncertainties surrounding JN.1, a glimmer of reassurance comes from vaccine immunity. The U.S. CDC anticipates that existing COVID-19 tests and treatments will remain effective against JN.1. This optimism stems from the variant's lineage, as it descends from BA.2.86, a subvariant that gained attention in the summer due to significant changes in spike proteins. (Please note that Thailand Medical News disagrees with this.)
Despite this reassurance, health officials emphasize the urgency of increased vaccine uptake. The JN.1 variant's surge, coupled with rising hospitalizations and the concurrent increase in flu-like illnesses, underscores the importance of vaccination to mitigate the impact of respiratory viruses.
Hospitalization Trends and Winter Challenges
While the JN.1 variant dominates headlines, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have been steadily increasing. Weekly hospital admissions have seen a 10% rise, exceeding 25,500, indicating a trend expected to persist following year-end holiday gatherings.
The U.S. CDC warns that more hospitalizations are likely in the coming weeks, and the strain on healthcare resources could intensify. The current situation, although below the record surge of the previous winter, demands vigilance, especially considering the challenges posed by the JN.1 variant and the concurrent rise in flu-like illnesses.
Flu and COVID-19: A Dual Threat
As the United States grapples with the JN.1 surge, health officials sound an additional alarm about the co-occurrence of flu and COVID-19. High levels of flu-like illnesses were reported in 17 states, up from 14 the week before, according to the U.S. CDC. Factors contributing to this increase include holiday gatherings, heightened travel, and the emergence of the JN.1 variant.
Dr Manisha Patel from the U.S. CDC notes, "Folks are traveling a lot more this season. They want to see their families. And all of that sort of adds to the mix." The intersection of these factors amplifies the risk of respiratory viruses spreading more easily, placing additional strain on healthcare resources.
Vaccination Rates and Public Health Concerns
Despite the urgency for increased vaccine uptake, national survey data reveals that only about 18% of adults have received the latest COVID-19 shot. This figure stands significantly lower than the 42% of adults who report getting a flu vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy, fueled by concerns over vaccine safety and a prior coronavirus infection, remains a significant public health issue.
A recent Gallup survey covered in various local COVID-19 News-United States reports indicates that only about half of Americans have either received or plan to get the latest COVID-19 shot. This reluctance poses a challenge to achieving widespread immunity and mitigating the impact of respiratory illnesses. Health officials stress the importance of vaccination against COVID-19, influenza, and RSV, given the low vaccination rates and the potential for more severe disease in the coming months.
The JN.1 variant's surge in the United States unveils a complex landscape of challenges and uncertainties in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. As the variant rapidly becomes the dominant strain, the need for increased vaccine uptake, international collaboration, and public health measures intensifies. The intersection of rising hospitalizations, flu-like illnesses, and the co-occurrence of flu and COVID-19 adds layers of complexity to the public health response. As health officials closely monitor the situation and provide updates, the collective efforts of the global community are crucial in navigating the evolving dynamics of the pandemic.
For the latest COVID-19 News-United States, keep on logging to Thailand Medical News.


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