New Covid Variant FLiRT Raises Concerns as Cases Surge in UK

New Covid Variant FLiRT Raises Concerns as Cases Surge in UK

LONDON (AP) – Experts are closely monitoring the rapid spread of a new, highly contagious Covid-19 variant in the United Kingdom, as the country grapples with a significant spike in cases and hospitalizations.

The variants, collectively known as FLiRT, are believed to be behind a sudden 21% rise in Covid-19 cases and a sharp increase in hospitalizations, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Data suggests that three strains – KP.1.1, KP.3, and KP.2 – now account for 40% of all cases in the UK, with the potential to become the dominant variants.

As the UKHSA continues to gather more data on the mutations, their transmissibility, and severity, the agency has issued new guidance addressing public concerns about the FLiRT variants.

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“UKHSA is continuing to monitor data relating to new variants both in the UK and internationally, assessing their severity and the ongoing effectiveness of vaccines,” the agency stated in a blog post on May 13. “There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time.”

The FLiRT strains developed from the previously dominant JN.1 strain, also known as Pirola or Juno, with mutations representing the replacement of the F with L and R with T in the virus’s genetic code.

While the UKHSA acknowledges that it’s normal for viruses to mutate and change, the agency emphasizes the importance of understanding how the healthcare system responds to seasonal fluctuations in cases. As more data becomes available on the FLiRT variant, the agency aims to provide guidance on optimizing protection and actions to keep the most vulnerable safe while allowing for a return to normal life.

The surge in cases and hospitalizations has raised concerns among health experts and the public alike, highlighting the ongoing need for vigilance and adherence to public health guidelines as the pandemic continues to evolve.

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