What to Know About the JN.1 Variant and Its Impact on At-Home Tests

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The United States is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the JN.1 variant. While the new variant does not appear to cause more severe symptoms in most individuals, it raises questions about the continued necessity of COVID-19 testing.

Experts emphasize the importance of testing to differentiate between COVID-19, influenza, and other viral or bacterial infections, as they require different treatments. For individuals at higher risk of severe illness, such as those with compromised immune systems or cancer, testing is crucial to facilitate isolation if COVID-19 is confirmed.

However, for healthy individuals, the utility of testing may be limited. A positive test result does not significantly alter treatment recommendations, which typically involve rest, hydration, and isolation.

Regarding the impact of the JN.1 variant on testing, experts indicate that there is no evidence to suggest that it affects the accuracy of at-home rapid tests. These tests target a part of the virus that is less prone to mutations that could evade detection.

The optimal time for testing is a few days into the illness, as viral load may be highest at that point. If an initial test is negative, it is recommended to repeat it 48 hours later, especially if symptoms persist.

At-home rapid tests can provide an indication of contagiousness, as they require a higher level of virus to produce a positive result. However, it is important to note that these tests may not be reliable towards the end of an illness, when viral load may be lower.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09