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'Monster' COVID Variant ‘Pirola’ Births a Daughter

Over the last two weeks, the average daily hospitalizations in the U.S. for COVID-19 has risen by 15.8%, not completely unexpected for the oncoming winter season. However, the “outlier” COVID variant BA.2.86 ("Pirola"), with its unusual 36 different mutations, is on the move, after months of seeming hibernation. From July to October, it was a dot on the radar screen, not being responsible for even an estimated 1% of the COVID infections.

Now it has grabbed 21% of the market, and more ominously, it has spawned its own fast-growing variant, entitled JN.1. It has only one mutation different from Pirola. It was only about 0.1% of the infections six weeks ago, but it is now in the same ballpark as Pirola. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “projects that the variant JN.1 comprises an estimated 15-29% of in the United States as of Dec. 8.” So, the two—each with a massive level of mutations in their stem—together are around 36-50% of the infections in the U.S. The “CDC projects that JN.1 will continue to increase as a proportion of SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences. It is currently the fastest-growing variant in the United States.”

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