CDC official: New COVID variant doesn’t show ‘increased severity’

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By Carina

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States closely monitors the JN.1 COVID-19 variant, which currently accounts for most recent U.S. cases. 

Preliminary data suggests that JN.1 may not be more severe than previous strains. CDC official Eduardo Azziz-Baumgartner, in an interview with CBS News, indicated that early medical record data does not show increased severity but also cautioned, “It could be very severe. People could die from a virus that, to the general population, may be milder.” 

CDC and WHO updates on JN.1 variant severity and symptoms

The CDC plans to provide more detailed information on the variant’s severity in the coming weeks.

So far, the CDC has not identified significant differences in symptoms caused by JN.1 compared to other COVID-19 variants. 

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Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported no data suggesting JN.1 leads to more severe cases globally. 

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CDC on JN.1 variant: Symptom severity and ongoing research

A CDC spokesperson reiterated, “There is no data that would indicate JN.1 infection produces different symptoms from other variants,” emphasizing that symptom severity often depends more on individual immunity and health than the variant itself. 

The CDC continues to research the effects of COVID-19 variants, including JN.1. 

There have been unconfirmed reports suggesting that JN.1 might cause slightly different symptoms, including anxiety and worry. 

JN.1 variant dominance and recent COVID-19 trends in U.S

A Johns Hopkins article on JN.1 noted symptoms appear similar to previous variants but mentioned a possible increase in cases of diarrhea, though firm data supporting this is still pending. 

As of January 20, JN.1 comprises approximately 85 percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases. The variant, first reported in October 2023, was initially a minor presence but rapidly became dominant by late December.

The CDC’s latest data shows a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, case numbers, and emergency room visits as of the week ending January 13. 

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COVID-19 decline and renewed mask mandates in hospitals

This trend indicates a current decrease in COVID-19 spread, contrasting with previous surges seen throughout the pandemic. 

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Despite recent increases, these numbers remain significantly lower than earlier peaks.

Several states, including New York and California, have reimposed hospital mask mandates, mainly for healthcare workers and patient-facing staff. 

Diverging COVID-19 guidelines: Local mask mandates and isolation periods

Local agencies in Los Angeles County and New York City have also issued hospital mask mandates. 

Meanwhile, California’s health department diverged from CDC guidelines on isolation periods for COVID-19, suggesting that individuals with mild symptoms and no fever for 24 hours may end isolation earlier. 

This differs from the CDC’s recommendation of a minimum five-day home isolation period for COVID-19 cases, with extended isolation if symptoms persist.

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