Here's where new COVID JN.1 variant is spreading in US, what to know before you travel

"What we're seeing now is a variant that is rising off the charts," said UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

ByJ.R. Stone KGO logo
Friday, December 22, 2023
Here's where new COVID JN.1 variant is spreading in US
Doctors explain what you need to know before you travel over Christmas as the new COVID-19 JN.1 variant spreads in the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO -- We are now just days away from Christmas and COVID numbers are on the rise.

Doctors say there are several different viruses involving respiratory issues that are increasing.

RELATED: JN.1 now the 'fastest-growing' COVID variant in the US

"What we're seeing now is a variant that is rising off the charts and unfortunately an increase in wastewater detection of COVID nationally and locally," said UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. He's referring to COVID and says hospitalizations and deaths involving the virus are also up.

Thursday, we spoke with Dr. Chin-Hong and Stanford's Dr. Dean Winslow about COVID. Both are strong supporters of COVID, flu, and RSV vaccines and both brought up the new JN.1 COVID variant.

"It's an omicron subvariant, it appears to be very, very transmissible though, it doesn't appear to cause more severe disease than earlier variants did," said Dr. Winslow.

Millions of people are traveling this Christmas holiday and that means millions of people going through airports and crowding in on planes so they can get to family and friends in other areas.

RELATED: Should you (still) wear a face mask when you travel? Medical expert weighs in

"Right now the biggest risk of COVID is in the Midwest but we're seeing it nationally as well and the new variant JN.1 is most common in the East Coast but it's spreading across the country uniformly," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

As to wearing a mask. Dr. Winslow is also a pilot and former Air Force flight surgeon.

"The air is very clean cause the HVAC systems in modern aircraft have very high turnover rates. They use HEPA filtration so being on the airliner itself is relatively low-risk of course, again you have to walk through the terminal and the TSA lines and through the often crowded jetway," says Dr. Winslow.

"Walking into the plane, getting off of the plane, public transit those are high-risk areas," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

RELATED: RSV, flu and COVID-19: How can you tell the difference? Doctor explains

"The other little bit of advice which I'd like to give your listeners is that those little vents that are over your seat for commercial airliner. They're called gasper fans and I strongly recommend people turn them open all the way," said Dr. Winslow.

This a little technique that may cool things down, but will help increase air flow, and could benefit you when it comes to staying healthy.

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