JN.1 – What to know about the latest COVID-19 variant

Health officials say the latest COVID-19 variant is currently the main cause of infections in the U.S and globally.
They say in the past 24 hours, the JN.1 variant has gone from being a variant of interest to the leading cause of infections, resulting in an uptick in hospitalizations.
Last week, hospitals in the tri-state area admitted almost 3,000 patients with COVID-19. Doctors say that includes an increase in patients being admitted to the ICU with lung issues.
"They have not led to as many ventilators…nothing like the volume we saw early on, but really that has been the notable change," says Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at The Cleveland Clinic.
Khabbaza says so far compared to other variants, JN. 1 does not seem to be hitting people as hard. But because it has become highly contagious, JN. 1 could impact someone with a weak immune system.
"If you have diabetes, obesity, heart failure or especially if you're on medications that lower your immune system, you're in a higher risk category," says Khabbaza.
For people who are deemed high risk, Paxlovid can help them recover faster, but it needs to be taken within the first five days of testing positive.
They are also encouraged to get tested and treated the moment they feel respiratory symptoms to minimize their chances of being hospitalized or getting very sick.
Health officials and doctors say the current COVID-19 vaccine is not an exact match for JN. 1, but it will provide some protection against severe illness.