WHO declares a new COVID19 variant of interest

The World Health Organization has declared a new COVID-19 variant of interest, known as JN.1, due to its rapidly increasing spread. The variant JN.1 was previously grouped under its ‘parent’ variant , known as BA.2.86, but has now been listed as a separate variant of interest (VOI). The WHO says that based on the available evidence, the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 is low, although, with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries. 

Organisation/s: World Health Organization (WHO)

Media release

From: World Health Organization (WHO)

NEW: COVID19 variant of interest JN.1

Note: Updated with additional information for health workers and facilities

Geneva, 19 December 2023 — Due to its rapidly increasing spread, WHO is classifying the variant JN.1 as a separate variant of interest (VOI) from the parent lineage BA.2.86.  It was previously classified as VOI as part of BA.2.86 sublineages.

Based on the available evidence, the additional global public health risk posed by JN.1 is currently evaluated as low. Despite this, with the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, JN.1 could increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries.

LINK: Read the risk evaluation: https://www.who.int/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants

WHO is continuously monitoring the evidence and will update the JN.1 risk evaluation as needed.

Current vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death from JN.1 and other circulating variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

COVID-19 is not the only respiratory disease circulating.  Influenza, RSV and common childhood pneumonia are on the rise.

WHO advises people to take measures to prevent infections and severe disease using all available tools. These include:

-Wear a mask when in crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated areas, and keep a safe distance from others, as feasible

-Improve ventilation

-Practise respiratory etiquette – covering coughs and sneezes

-Clean your hands regularly

-Stay up to date with vaccinations against COVID-19 and influenza, especially if you are at high risk for severe disease

-Stay home if you are sick

-Get tested if you have symptoms, or if you might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or influenza

For health workers and health facilities, WHO advises:

-Universal masking in health facilities, as well as appropriate masking, respirators and other PPE for health workers caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. 

-Improve ventilation in health facilities

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