Home » 2 new COVID variants called ‘FLiRT’ are spreading in the U.S. What are the symptoms?

2 new COVID variants called ‘FLiRT’ are spreading in the U.S. What are the symptoms?

by UNN Feed

Respiratory virus season may be ending in the United States, but a new group of COVID-19 variants are circulating, sparking concerns about a potential summer wave.

The family of variants, nicknamed “FLiRT,” after their mutations, include KP.2, which is now the dominant variant in the United States. In recent weeks, KP.2 quickly overtook JN.1, the omicron subvariant that drove a surge in COVID cases this past winter.

Currently, KP.2 accounts for one in four infections nationwide, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a two-week period ending April 27, KP.2 made up nearly 25% of cases in the U.S., up from about 10% during the previous two-week period ending on April 13. After KP.2, the next most common variant is JN,1, which accounts for 22% of cases, followed by two JN.1 subvariants, JN.1.7 and JN.1.13.1.

Another FLiRT variant, called KP.1.1, is also circulating in the U.S., but is less widespread than KP.2. It currently accounts for about 7.5% of infections nationwide, per the CDC.

Although cases and hospitalizations are down and the country is in the middle of a COVID-19 lull, the new FLiRT variants are stoking concerns about another wave of infections this summer.

Will there be another COVID-19 surge? What are the symptoms of the FLiRT variants? Are vaccines still effective? We spoke to experts to learn more.

What are the FLIRT variants?

The FLiRT variants — KP.2 and KP.1.1 — are spinoffs of JN.1.11.1, a direct descendant of JN.1, and were initially detected in wastewater samples from across the country.

The new variants have two additional mutations that set them apart from JN.1 and appear to give them an advantage over previous variants, Dr. Albert Ko, infectious disease physician and professor of public health, epidemiology and medicine at Yale School of Public Health, tells TODAY.com.

The nickname ‘FLiRT” is based on the technical names for their mutations, according to the Infectious Disease Society of…

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