COVID-19 FLiRT Variant: What Are The Symptoms?

COVID-19 FLiRT Variant: What Are The Symptoms?

Watch out, kids, there’s a new COVID-19 variant in town! The variant known as KP.2, nicknamed FLiRT, is the top COVID-19 variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This data shows that FLiRT has spread faster over the past month. 

The KP.2 variant accounted for 16% of COVID-19 cases at the end of April 2024. Now, it makes up more than 28% of all COVID-19 infections. KP.2 belongs to a new group of strains in the omicron family, which have been dubbed FLiRT. This name is short for the technical names of mutations on their spike proteins. Scientists note that the mutations assist the virus in invading the body, despite immunity from previous infection of vaccination. Experts note that another variant KP.1.1 is now responsible for 7.5% of infections, so appears to be gaining momentum. 

Symptoms Of The New FLiRT Variant

The KP.2 and KP.1.1 variants are spreading quickly, but there is no indication of them being more dangerous than recent prevalent strains, including JN.1. As of now, medical experts note that there are no new symptoms of FLiRT variants. That said, it may be too early to know exactly what all the symptoms are, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). At this point, the common symptoms of the new COVID-19 FLiRT variant KP.2, and other FLiRT variants, include:

  • Nasal congestion, or runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

The New Variant Will Hit Some People Harder Than Others

Although the KP.2 variant may avoid immune defenses more effectively than previous COVID-19 strains, most people will only experience mild symptoms after infection. Those people will either have already had prior infection or vaccination, both of which provide sufficient protection to fight severe illness. 

Infectious disease specialists agree that symptoms of the new variant appear very similar to those caused by previous variants. If people did not get vaccinated or haven’t had COVID-19 infection in a while, symptoms may be more severe. Experts warn that people who lose their sense of taste or smell may potentially, although rare, experience shortness of breath as well. Difficulty breathing may occur about seven days after symptoms start. 

A person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases if the person has underlying health conditions. Heart disease, chronic lung disease, obesity, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease can increase the risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, babies under six months of age and pregnant women also have a greater risk of serious infection.

A Small Summer COVID Wave May Be On The Horizon 

Health authorities expect an increase in COVID-19 infections with the highly transmissible KP.2 variant with summer approaching. The data is beginning to show an increase in cases in some parts of the U.S. and parts of Europe, including Spain. Data from the U.K. revealed an uptick in COVID-19 cases, which were likely fueled by the FLiRT variants. 

It’s important to note that serious illnesses have declined since the height of the pandemic. That said, the CDC reminds the public that COVID-19 is still a threat, especially to people with underlying health conditions. Minimizing the spread within immunocompromised groups can help reduce the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The virus, like the flu virus, will continue to evolve, so keep tabs on these changes and adjust as you see fit.

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