FLiRT Covid variant symptoms and signs as new strain spreads and UKHSA issues advice

The symptoms and signs of the FLiRT Covid-19 variant, which is currently spreading across the UK, have been revealed as a new wave begins.

It comes as in the last fortnight of April in the US, one of the FLiRT variants, KP.2, caused around 25 per cent of new sequenced cases. This fresh strain presents symptoms similar to previous versions of the virus, including high temperature or shivering, a new continuous cough, a loss or change in sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, and feelings of tiredness or exhaustion.

Additional symptoms include body aches, headaches, sore throat, blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and nausea or vomiting. Megan L. Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, told WebMD that FLiRT has some worrying characteristics, such as changes in the spike protein, which aids SARS-CoV-2 in colonising the body and causing illness, reports BirminghamLive.


Thomas A. Russo, chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, warned WebMD: "We've got a population of people with waning immunity, which increases our susceptibility to a wave."

In an email statement to USA TODAY on Wednesday, the CDC said: "The CDC is tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants KP.2 and KP.1.1, sometimes referred to as 'FLiRT,' and working to better understand their potential impact on public health.

"Currently, KP.2 is the dominant variant in the United States, but laboratory testing data indicate low levels of SARS-CoV-2 transmission overall at this time. That means that while KP.2 is proportionally the most predominant variant, it is not causing an increase in infections as transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is low," the CDC said in the statement.

There are "no current indicators" that KP.2 would cause more severe illness than other strains as it stands, however. A spokesman for the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning call and said: "Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus.

Recent figures released by the UK Health Security Agency show there has been a sharp increase in Covid cases week-on-week. Three strains of the new FLiRT variation, KP.1.1, KP.3 and KP.2, accounted for 40% of all cases in the UK as of April 2024.

In a blog post, titles 'Should we be worried about the new COVID-19 variant?' the UK Health Security Agency said: "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. There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time.

"It is important to note that we will need more data to draw any conclusions about the effect of these mutations on transmissibility and severity of the variant. In this blog post we’ll outline what we know so far and what action we are taking.

"It’s normal for viruses to mutate and change, and more widely we’re still getting to grips with how the healthcare system responds to the ebb and flow of seasonal cases. As more data becomes available on this variant, we’ll have a better understanding of how it interacts with our immune systems and how to optimise our protection and as well as actions we can take to keep the most vulnerable safe and live our lives as normally as possible."