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U.S. FLiRT COVID-19 Variants: What You Need To Know.

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COVID-19
LYNNE SLADKY|AP

(CTN News) – The “FLiRT” subset of COVID-19 variants is expanding in the United States as summer approaches.

While JN.1, which was once the dominant strain, is declining, the number of other FLiRT variants is increasing. JN.1 was the most prevalent strain used for the majority of winter in the United States.

At this time, the most widely recognized strain is KP.2. Both the strain and KP.1.1 are descended from JN.1. The term “FLiRT” was derived from the technical terminology used to refer to these modifications. Below are some details about them.

To what degree are they prevalent?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KP.2 caused nearly 28% of new infections during the two-week period ending May 11. More than seven percent of newly diagnosed cases were attributed to KP.1.1.

Worldwide, KP.2 is also increasing. The strain is now accountable for nearly 10% of illnesses worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. This figure represents an increase from around 6% of cases approximately one month ago.

WHO Maria Van Kerkhove states that KP.2 is “one we are keeping an eye on.” “We expect these percentages to change, given that the initial sequences were disclosed in January of this year,” Van Kerkhove said at a press conference this month.

To what extent do FLiRT variants impact hospitalizations, fatalities, and COVID-19 cases? Recently, COVID-19-related hospitalizations have attained an all-time low since the outbreak began. The CDC reports that viral activity in wastewater is currently considered “minimal” across the nation. Viral activity in wastewater can be measured to monitor symptomatic and asymptomatic diseases.

COVID-19 measures have not increased as a result of KP.2.

Although KP.2 is the most prevalent variant in the United States, it is not associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections or more severe disease than other variants, according to the CDC.

COVID-19 is not currently seasonal, a summer pandemic is always a possibility. Anticipations are rendered more arduous by the diminishing availability of reliable COVID-19 data, which is a consequence of hospitals no longer being required to submit specific COVID-19 indicators to the federal government.

Even so, this is not solely an American concern. According to the World Health Organization report, “it is increasingly challenging to estimate the severity impact of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants as testing and sequencing rates decline globally.”

Nevertheless, “no reported laboratory or epidemiological reports” exist at this time that demonstrate the variations’ heightened disease severity, according to the group.

Is Immunization Effective Against FLiRT Variants?

At this time, COVID-19XBB.1.5, a strain that is no longer used in the United States, is the subject of 19 vaccinations. Vaccinations are still expected to enhance protection against circulating genotypes.

During their June meeting to deliberate on the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine update, government advisers will likely incorporate FLiRT variations into their deliberations. The meeting, which was initially planned for this month, has been postponed to “provide further time for the acquisition of surveillance data and other pertinent information.” This will facilitate the advisory group’s access to up-to-date information to inform its deliberations and formulation of recommendations.

In its notification, the FDA stated that “it does not expect the date change to affect the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in the fall.” The fact that less than 23% of adults received the latest COVID-19 vaccine did not live up to the hopes of numerous individuals. In contrast to the 48% adoption rate of the adult influenza vaccination, this represents a substantial decline.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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