FLiRT Covid variants spread across UK - check the symptoms

Shoppers wearing masks in Hanley -Credit:STOKE SENTINEL
Shoppers wearing masks in Hanley -Credit:STOKE SENTINEL

New coronavirus variants are rapidly spreading in the UK, with experts warning they could now make up 50 per cent of cases. The highly-contagious new variants, nicknamed FLiRT, have become a dominant strain in the United States since April, and are now circulating in the UK.

There has recently been a surge in the number of people who have recently tested positive for Covid, according to The Mirror. FLiRT variants derived from the JN.1 subliniage are increasing in prevalence in the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reports.

Another FLiRT strain, KP.2, has been identified in the UK. Over the last two weeks of April in the US, KP.2 caused around 25 per cent of new sequenced cases.

Professor Christina Pagel, of University College London, said: "I think we are at the start of a Covid wave driven by the FLiRT variants which are quite likely to be at about 50 per cent of total infections now.

UKHSA says they are 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," they added.

A spokesman for the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said: "Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some changes and mutations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines."

They warned: "As the virus spreads, it may change and become harder to stop." So what are the symptoms of FLiRT? Recognising Covid-19 symptoms can be tricky as they are very similar to that of the flu.

Most people will recover within 12 weeks of their initial first symptoms, however some people can develop a serious illness and symptoms persist significantly longer. UKHSA say that as they obtain more data on the new variant, they will better understand how it reacts with the immune system.

Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Washington Post that she recommends patients seek anti-viral medication if they become sick. "The key thing to remember is that if you are a high-risk person, these types of variants pose an infection risk," Adalja said. "And if you have risk factors for severe disease, it's important for you to be up to date on vaccines and to have plans to procure Paxlovid if you become sick. But that’s the same for every variant."

Covid-19 symptoms

KP.2 has symptoms similar to earlier versions of the virus, including fever, chills, cough and muscle or body aches. Covid-19 symptoms include:

  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

  • shortness of breath

  • feeling tired or exhausted

  • an aching body

  • a headache

  • a sore throat

  • a blocked or runny nose

  • loss of appetite

  • diarrhoea

  • feeling sick or being sick

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you should avoid contact with vulnerable people and stay at home if possible.

You are no longer required to do a Covid-19 rapid lateral flow test if you have symptoms. But if you or your child have tested positive for Covid-19:

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day the test was taken if you or your child are under 18 years old – children and young people tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days after the day you took your test if you are 18 years old or over

  • avoid meeting people who are more likely to get seriously ill from viruses, such as people with a weakened immune system, for 10 days after the day you took your test

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