New COVID FLiRT variants: symptoms, incubation period and vaccines

The new variants have caused a sharp rise in COVID infections across the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have identified new COVID variants which are behind a sharp rise in coronavirus hospitalisations and infections in recent weeks.

The new COVID FLiRT variants appear to be similar to previous versions of the virus but have some key variations.

Here’s all you need to know about the new virus variant.

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What are the new COVID FLiRT variants?

The FLiRT variants are a collective of variant strains which include KP.2, JN1.7 and any other variants starting with KP or JN which have independently picked up the same set of mutations.

They descend from JN.1, which had variant BA.2.86 as a parent.

What are the symptoms of the new COVID FLiRT variants?

So far, the variants have brought similar symptoms to earlier versions of the virus including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, a sore throat, congestion or a runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

What is the incubation period of the new COVID FLiRT variants?

The variants have a similar period of infectiousness as the JN.1 variants and previous omicron variants.

Symptoms generally show up after five or more days and the virus is contagious one to two days before you experience symptoms and a few days after symptoms subside.

Individuals may experience the virus for up to a week after their symptoms begin and some may experience rebound symptoms.

How infectious are the new COVID FLiRT variants?

Dr Thomas Russo of the University of Buffalo pointed out that the KP.2 cases had increased whilst cases by the other variants were decreasing, which implies that the KP.2 variant has an advantage over the others.

He told Prevention: “It looks like KP.2 is less infectious than JN.1 but more immune evasive, which is why it’s increasing in prevalence”

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Vaccines continue to be the best defence against against severe disease and hospitalisation from flu and COVID-19 according to the UKHSA website. This is why they are “asking over-75s, those who have a weakened immune system, and anyone living in a care home for older adults, to come forward for their spring vaccination.”. Picture: UnsplashVaccines continue to be the best defence against against severe disease and hospitalisation from flu and COVID-19 according to the UKHSA website. This is why they are “asking over-75s, those who have a weakened immune system, and anyone living in a care home for older adults, to come forward for their spring vaccination.”. Picture: Unsplash
Vaccines continue to be the best defence against against severe disease and hospitalisation from flu and COVID-19 according to the UKHSA website. This is why they are “asking over-75s, those who have a weakened immune system, and anyone living in a care home for older adults, to come forward for their spring vaccination.”. Picture: Unsplash | Unsplash

Do we need to be concerned over the new COVID FLiRT variants?

UKHSA continue to monitor the data relating to the variants as assessing the severity and the ongoing effectiveness of vaccines. At this moment in time, there is no change to the wider public health advice.

UKHSA said: “When a new variant appears on our radar, at the initial stages it is often quite difficult to know whether the mutations provide any advantages to the virus.

“Genetic mutations happen all the time, and in some cases have been known to make a virus less transmissible or cause a milder reaction in people.”

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from the new COVID FLiRT variants?

According to the UKHSA website, vaccines continue to be the best defence against against severe disease and hospitalisation from flu and COVID-19. This is why they are “asking over-75s, those who have a weakened immune system, and anyone living in a care home for older adults, to come forward for their spring vaccination.”

They also recommend to stay at home and avoid contact with vulnerable people if possible if you experience symptoms of a VOVID and have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to work or carry out normal activities.

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