JN.1 is the latest dominant Covid variant that has quickly spread across the country.

But what are the symptoms and is it more severe?

Here’s what we know.

What is the JN.1 Covid variant and is it more transmissible?

The JN.1 Covid variant is a descendant of the BA.2.86 Omicron variant.

It was first identified in December 2023 and has continued to spread since then.

The number of JN.1 infections has surged in recent weeks, rising from just under nine per cent of UK Covid cases in mid-November to nearly 70 per cent in the first week of January, according to the latest data from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

This is because JN.1 “seems to be better at re-infecting individuals with pre-existing immunity from vaccinations and previous infections than previous variants,” Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, told FactCheck.

Hana Patel, an NHS GP working in South East London, also told FactCheck: “At this time of year, the cold weather, shorter days and increased socialising mean that the potential for transmission of respiratory viruses like Covid is particularly high.

“This, as well as the possible impact of new variants, means it’s not unexpected to see cases increasing.”

What are the symptoms of JN.1 and is it more severe?

Symptoms of JN.1 include a runny nose, sneezing and a cough.

Dr Patel says she’s also seeing people with Covid presenting with “feeling tired or exhausted, an aching body, a headache, a sore throat”.

But Prof Michaelis noted that “due to the existing immune protection in large parts of the population, most JN.1 cases are mild”.

He said: “We do not expect to see hospitalisation and death rates like at the beginning of the pandemic, although the infection rates are high.”

Covid rates much higher in December but starting to fall

Data from the UK Health Security Agency and the Office for National Statistics also shows that rates of Covid – including the JN.1 variant – doubled among young people in England and Scotland between November and December, with nearly one in 20 adults under 34 testing positive for Covid around Christmas. Though overall, the latest weekly figures show a slight decline in Covid positivity rates.

(Image Credit: Maureen McLean/Shutterstock)