New COVID-19 'FLiRT' Variants Are The Most Dominant In The U.S.

New COVID-19 'FLiRT' Variants Are The Most Dominant In The U.S.

A new set of COVID-19 variants—which have been given the nickname FLiRT—are the new dominant strain in the United States, currently accounting for 28.2% of all cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on May 11.

This is up 15.9% from from the agency's previous report on April 27. FLiRT variants are now the most dominant in the United State, out numbering JN.1, which spread all over the world throughout the winter, according to CDC research.

So what are these new FLiRT variants and what do their symptoms look like? Ahead, everything to know about the new COVID-19 variant called FLiRT and how to protect yourself from infection.

What are the FLiRT variants?

The FLiRT variants, KP.2 and KP.1.1, are part of the Omicron family. Specifically, they are descendants of JN.1.11.1, a by-product of JN.1—the most common variant until these new ones popped up, per Prevention. They're named for their amino-acid mutations: Amino phenylalanine (F) is replaced by leucine (L), while arginine (R) is replaced by threonine (T), per The Cut. KP.2 is now the dominant strain of COVID-19, according to Prevention.

FLiRT variants first cropped up in March, according to the outlet, and since they're pretty new, there isn't too much information about how these variants work yet. However, research has found a few changes in KP.2's spike protein compared to JN.1, according to Prevention. Not up to date on all this science lingo? The spike protein is how SARS-CoV-2 infects you it latches onto your cells and, well, you get sick.

What are COVID-19 FLiRT symptoms?

FLiRT symptoms aren't much different from any other typical COVID-19 symptoms. CDC says symptoms of COVID-19 FLiRT include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

It's important to note that as new COVID-19 variants spread, the symptoms can vary by person.

How do I know if my COVID-19 infection is the FLiRT variant?

Unfortunately, a COVID-19 test won't tell you exactly which variant is responsible for your infection, since they only detect the presence of the virus. However, genomic sequencing will look at the genetic code of the virus to help determine which variant caused your infection, per Nebraska Med.

How should I protect myself against the FLiRT variant of COVID-19?

In good news, the CDC hasn't found evidence that the FLiRT variants cause more severe illnesses than previous ones. But staying up to date with your booster shots can provide some protection against this new variant, according to Nebraska Med. The pub says that other ways to protect yourself from the FLiRT variant can look like:

  • Opting for outdoor activities over indoor whenever possible

  • Avoid high-risk settings

  • Washing your hands often

  • Avoiding close contact with others

  • Wearing a mask in public places

  • Staying at home if you're sick or have symptoms of COVID-19

While the FLiRT variants were not targeted in the creation of the current vaccine, it still provides protection against severe illness and hospitalization. The FDA and CDC will meet on June 5 to make recommendations "on the strain(s) to be included in the 2024-2024 Formula for COVID-19 vaccines," according to the FDA.

Those who are more vulnerable to getting sick during a spring or summer surge may benefit from the new monoclonal antibody Pemgarda, a new treatment that was granted emergency use by the FDA in March, per WebMD. It's a preventive measure for those who are considered moderately to severely immunocompromised.

You Might Also Like