Here We Go: Two New COVID Variants Named ‘FLiRT’ Reportedly Spreading Across the U.S.

By Jim Hᴏft May. 6, 2024

Just in time for the election…

Two new COVID-19 variants, collectively known as “FLiRT,” have been detected and are reportedly spreading across the United States.

The FLiRT variants are sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, named for the mutations they bear.

The Infectious Disease Society of America states that the nickname ‘FLiRT’ is derived from the technical names of the variants’ mutations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reclassified it as a variant of interest and recommended close monitoring.

According to Mass Live, citing the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the KP.2 variant is currently the dominant strain, accounting for about 25% of all infections nationwide.

Another FLiRT variant, KP.1.1, is also circulating in the US but is less widespread, making up around 7.5% of infections.

So-called experts are now claiming that individuals without the updated COVID-19 vaccines are likely to become infected.

In recent weeks, COVID-19 forecasters have reported on a new set of variants picked up in wastewater surveillance. Nicknamed FLiRT, they’re threatening to cause a new wave of COVID infections, which recently bottomed out after spiking in December.

Models released last week from Jay Weiland, a data scientist who has accurately predicted COVID waves since the beginning of the pandemic, warns that a surge is on the horizon. “He’s someone who many experts like myself follow because he’s been pretty accurate so far,” said Megan L. Ranney, MD, dean of the Yale School of Public Health.

What’s more, said Ranney, FLiRT also has some concerning features, like changes in the spike protein, which play a role in helping SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, take hold, colonize the body, and make people sick.

Host vulnerability is another troubling factor, given that only 22% of American adults have gotten the latest COVID vaccine. And since many people may not have had the virus in a while, they’re ripe for reinfection.

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