Despite its nickname, COVID-19 variant ‘FLiRT’ should be taken seriously

Could the United States see a summer COVID-19 surge? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which carefully […]

Close-up as a woman drips buffer solution from a plastic vial onto the lateral flow test device for Covid-19.

Could the United States see a summer COVID-19 surge? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which carefully tracks the virus, has seen an uptick in several states. While the states don’t include Minnesota, neighboring states are included. Summer travel can also bring an increased risk of the virus coming here.

The virus is often monitored through wastewater testing, which can determine COVID levels in a community. Those tests have shown a recent sharp uptick of the virus in several states, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Montana and New Mexico. That is according to the publication The Hill.

Another measure is emergency room visits related to COVID, which recently have also increased, spiking almost 13 percent in one week. The biggest jumps were in Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, though they still account for only 0.6 percent of all ER visits nationwide.

The CDC’s own measures show that the number of COVID infections is growing or likely growing in 34 states. Minnesota is a state where cases are deemed as likely growing.  Experts point to new dominant ‘FLiRT’ subvariants such as KP.3 for the apparent summer surge. FLiRT variants, which include KP.3, KP.2 and KP.1.1 or any of those starting with KP or JN, combined for more than 47 percent of all COVID cases in the past two weeks in the U.S.

Such mutations are to be expected, the CDC pointed out.

“Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some changes and mutations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. As the virus spreads, it may change and become harder to stop,” the agency said on its website.

People with disabilities, especially those with compromised immune systems, need to be specially mindful of virus and variant trends.

One bit of positive news is FLiRT variants do not appear to cause more severe illness than previous variants. The pattern of infection appears to be the same. Several health websites indicate that people typically develop symptoms five or more days after exposure, though symptoms can appear soon. People are contagious one or two days before they experience symptoms and a few days after symptoms subside. But as with previous variants, the virus and its status can vary person to person.

Common symptoms for FLiRT include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever or chills
  • New loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Everyone is encouraged to keep current on vaccinations, as the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve and change.  Access Press has provided COVID-19 coverage in a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."


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