COVID Surge Raises Fresh Concerns

COVID Surge Raises Fresh Concerns

The FLiRT variants are offshoots of JN.1, which was the dominant variant in the U.S. this past winter. 

This family of variants appears to be very contagious, thanks to mutations in the spike protein that may improve the virus’s ability to bind to human cells. “When we look at their molecular profile, some of those mutations potentially could allow the [virus] to escape from previous immunity,” Hopkins explained.

According to Dr. Nikhil Bhayani, an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the Burnett School of Medicine at Texas Christian University, one variant in particular is gaining steam right now: KP.3. It’s currently responsible for roughly 25% of cases.

Two other variants in the FLiRT family, KP.2 and KP.1.1, make up 22.5% and 7.5% of infections, respectively. Research from Japan found that KP.2, the dominant variant this past spring, was more transmissible than its predecessors and potentially better at outsmarting our vaccines. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like the illness will be any different with the FLiRT variants, according to Hopkins. He suspects they’ll trigger the typical COVID symptoms: Fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, body aches and, though less common these days, loss of taste and smell.

The increase in cases also doesn’t appear to be causing an uptick in hospitalizations. “There’s no evidence they’re more severe than what we’ve been dealing with,” Hopkins said. 

What concerns experts about this wave of infections?

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