NEW: COVID19 variant of interest JN.1 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. 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. WHO is continuously monitoring the evidence and will update the JN.1 risk evaluation as needed.

COVID19 is not the only respiratory disease circulating. #Influenza, RSV and common childhood #pneumonia are on the rise.

Take measures for prevent infections and severe disease using all available tools.

All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’s properties. However, some changes may affect the virus’s properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures. 

In June 2020, the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group was established with a specific focus on SARS-CoV-2 variants, their phenotype and their impact on countermeasures. This later became the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution. In late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted WHO to characterize some as variants of interest (VOIs) and variants of concern (VOCs) in order to prioritize global monitoring and research, and to inform and adjust the COVID-19 response. From May 2021 onwards, WHO began assigning simple, easy-to-say labels for key variants.

Considerable progress has been made in establishing and strengthening a global system to detect signals of potential VOIs or VOCs and rapidly assess the risk posed by SARS-CoV-2 variants to public health. It remains critical that these systems are maintained, and data are shared, according to good principles and in a timely fashion, as SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate at high levels around the world. While monitoring the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 globally, it also remains essential to monitor their spread in animal populations and chronically infected individuals, which are crucial aspects of the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations that have negative public health implications. In March 2023, WHO updated its tracking system and working definitions for variants of concern, variants of interest and variants under monitoring. They can be found here. The previous working definitions can be found here.