Monday, May 27, 2024

New ‘FLiRT’ COVID-19 Variants Circulating In the U.S.

The flu season might have ended but new COVID-19 variants are now spreading across the U.S., which has prompted concerns about a possible summer wave.

The new group of variants, called ‘FLiRT’, include the KP.2 variant, which is the dominant one in the U.S. Over the past several weeks, it has overtaken JN.1 – the subvariant that was responsible for a surge of cases in the winter.

jn1 variant According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventing, KP.2 currently accounts for one in four COVID-19 infections.

From April 13 to April 27, KP.2 cases went up 10% to nearly 25%.

The second most dominant variant is JN.2, which was responsible for 22% of all cases, followed by the JN.1.13.1 and JN1.7 subvariants.

KP.1.1, another ‘FLiRT’ variant, is also spreading across the U.S. As of now, however, it’s not nearly as widespread as the other variants as it’s only responsible for 7.5 percent of infections in the country.

While hospitalizations have gone down, experts say there is a potential for a summer wave due to the new variant.

About the FLiRT Variants

The FLiRT variants, KP.1.1 and KP.2 are direct descents of JN.1. Compared to JN.1, they have two new mutations, that give them additional advantages, according to infectious disease specialist Dr. Albert Ko.

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Previous COVID-19 vaccinations will not provide full protection against the FLiRT variants due to their mutations

Similar to the other variants that spread nationwide last year, the FLiRT variants are members of the omicron family.

While it’s still early to say, experts believe the FLiRT variants are ‘rather transmissible’ as they are very similar in structure to JN.1, which was considered to be highly contagious.

According to Dr. William Schaffner, an expert on infectious diseases, KP.2’s mutations are enough so that immunity from prior infections and vaccines will not provide an individual with full protection.

Symptoms of FLirT Variants

Since the FLiRT variants are similar to the previous variants, they likely won’t cause any distinctive symptoms that will set it apart from the rest.

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Common symptoms include cough, sore throat, congestion, fatigue, headache, runny nose, fever or chills, muscle aches, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste, and nausea or vomiting.

The severity and type of symptoms an individual develops will depend on their immunity and underlying health.

Experts note that COVID-19 has a tendency of causing summer surges, though they are often smaller than the ones seen in the winter. Given the current trends, the FLiRT variant may cause a small wave.

While it’s too early to say whether or not the new variants will cause a summer surge, there are always ways to protect yourself and others from the virus.

The CDC recommends individuals to stay up to date with their vaccinations, test for COVID-19 after an exposure or if you have symptoms, and to stay home when you’re sick. Those who are sick should only return to normal activities once they’ve been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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