What you need to know about the new ‘FliRT’ coronavirus variant, according to a doctor

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A new variant of the coronavirus has emerged in the city. KP.2, a member of the so-called Flirt variants, nicknamed because of their mutations, is expected to become the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThese Flirt variants have some mutations in common but are still part of the Omicron family of coronaviruses.

For the period from April 28 to May 11, about 30% of new cases were caused by KP.2, up from less than 16% in the two-week period before that.

What should people know about this new variant? What are the symptoms of infection? Do vaccines still work against the new strain? Are home tests still reliable? How long should people isolate if they get KP.2? Who should receive antiviral treatment if they get infected with this variant of COVID-19? And what is the guidance for people with weakened immune systems – should they start wearing masks again?

To guide us through these questions, I spoke with CNN wellness expert Dr. Leana Wen. Wayne is an emergency physician and clinical associate professor at George Washington University. She previously served as the Health Commissioner of Baltimore.

CNN: What should people know about this new variant, KP.2?

Dr. A.S. Lena Wen: Since the beginning of Covid-19 we have been discussing new variants. The original strain of the virus was displaced by the Alpha variant. Then we had Beta, then Delta and then Omicron.

KP.2 is part of the Omicron family. It appears to be displacing JN.1 and similar subvariants, which were previously the dominant variants in the United States.

Whenever a new variant arrives, there are three key questions to ask: Is it more contagious? Does it cause more severe disease? And do existing vaccines and treatments work on it?

One reason is that a new strain displaces a previously dominant strain because it is as or more infectious. This means that KP.2 can spread very easily, which is what we have seen during COVID-19: that the coronavirus is extremely contagious and therefore difficult to avoid.

The good news is that KP.2 does not cause more severe illness. Hospitalization related to Covid-19 At record lows. And there is no reason to believe that existing vaccines and treatments will stop working against it.

CNN: What are the symptoms of infection with KP.2?

Wayne: Most people infected with coronavirus will never know which variant is causing their symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 infection include runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, cough and body ache. Some people may also have more serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing. COVID-19 can also aggravate underlying conditions like heart failure.

None of these symptoms are specific to KP.2, which has not yet been associated with unique symptoms that distinguish it from other coronavirus infections. It is important to remember that in many individuals, COVID-19 symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from other viral infections, such as the flu or common cold.

CNN: Is home testing still reliable?

Wayne: Rapid antigen home tests are an easy and convenient way to check for COVID-19, although they are not as reliable or accurate as laboratory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. There is no indication that home tests are less effective at picking up this new variant than previous variants.

I recommend that if people have symptoms they get home testing and may be eligible for antiviral treatment. If someone is very concerned that they may have COVID-19, they can take several home tests on different days, and they can also consider getting a PCR test.

CNN: Are existing vaccines effective against KP.2? What about a vaccine coming in the autumn?

Wayne: Existing vaccines should still have activity against KP.2. C.D.C. has issued guidelines recommending people ages 65 and older get a second shot of the vaccine that first debuted in the fall of 2023.

Federal health officials are expected to recommend a newly formulated version of the COVID-19 vaccine in the fall. The new vaccines are expected to be different from existing vaccines because the newest vaccines will target variants expected to be circulating in the fall and winter. If health officials anticipate that KP.2 will be one of these variants, the fall vaccines will likely be even more effective against KP.2.

CNN: How long should people isolate themselves if they get COVID-19?

Wayne: Earlier this year, the CDC lifted its five-day isolation requirement. Now, the agency recommends that people with COVID-19 stay home until they have had a fever for at least 24 hours and their symptoms have resolved. For the next five days, they should take extra precautions like wearing a mask and limiting close contact with others.

CNN: Who should get antiviral treatment if infected with COVID-19,

Wayne: People who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should consider antiviral treatment. That high-risk category includes older individuals, people with weakened immune systems and people with serious underlying medical conditions.

There are two oral medications available, and a third antiviral injection is also available. I recommend everyone ask their health care provider to determine if they should receive antiviral treatment if they are infected with the coronavirus, and if so, which one and how to receive it.

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Disclaimer : The content in this article is for educational and informational purposes only.

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