Warning over new FLiRT and LB.1 Covid variants - how worried we should be

A genetic mutation could be the reason some people don't get Covid symptoms
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A summer surge of Covid-19 is sweeping the UK, with experts pointing to mass events like music festivals and Euros viewings as hotspots for transmission.

The surge in cases is driven by the emergence of new variants named FLiRT and LB. 1, which are leading to an increase in reports of cold-like symptoms commonly associated with the virus.

Concerns have been raised by some health professionals that these two new strains may be capable of bypassing immunity, explaining why vaccinated individuals are still contracting the virus.

READ: Final list of where 4,500 homes will be built where you live Newcastle Borough Council has published the final draft of its local plan

READ: Killer driver hit speeds of 101 mph on A34 before double fatal crash Barry Salt, aged 73, and his wife, Megan Salt, aged 74, were rushed to hospital but they both died as a result of their injuries

Here's the lowdown on the new variants, the signs to watch out for, and the level of concern we should have regarding this summer's wave of infections, reports the MEN.

Is there cause for alarm over the new Covid strains?

According to Dr Mariyam Malik, an NHS and private GP, it's expected for new variants to appear periodically and mutations tend to occur more frequently during a surge in cases. "When lots of people get infected, the virus has more chances to mutate," she noted.

"Also, our immune responses from past infections or vaccines can push the virus to evolve."

Speaking to the Times, Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, acknowledged the evidence of a summer wave but stressed that Covid "will never be as serious as it once was". He did, however, caution that the elderly and vulnerable remain at heightened risk.

"If you are under 40 the risk of death is minuscule," Prof Hunter remarked. "If you are over 75 the risk is real and significant."

For those vaccinated in the past, it's likely they will continue to benefit from protection against severe illness. This comes straight from the mouth of Professor Jonathan Ball, who hails from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and declares: "Your immune memory is really good. We know that the immune B-cells, which produce the antibodies that protect against severe disease, can persist for decades."

While our defence against infection doesn't hold quite so steadfast, diminishing on average after four to six months. Prof Hunter explained, conveying the fact that younger individuals, even those in their 20s and 30s, are not immune to this occurrence.

What symptoms should individuals be wary of?

This strain introduces similar symptoms as its predecessors; these include a stubborn cough or sore throat that simply won't go away. Symptoms to watch out for have remained fairly consistent across the variety of strains. Dr Malik says they commonly include "fever, cough, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, muscle or body aches, shortness of breath, headache, and a runny nose."

On testing, she added: "People infected with the FLiRT and LB.1 variants do typically test positive on standard PCR tests. Rapid antigen tests also known as lateral flow tests can also detect these variants, though their sensitivity might vary."

How should Covid be managed?

Doctors generally recommend self isolating and using over-the-counter treatments if you are experiencing symptoms of Covid. Dr Malik said: "It is best to try to self-isolate, rest and stay hydrated. Use over-the-counter medications for symptom relief, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and monitor your symptoms closely, seeking medical help if they worsen."

Severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or a persistent high fever, would warrant a trip to the GP, Dr Malik advised. She added: "Individuals with underlying health conditions should contact their GP if they test positive or develop symptoms, as they may be at higher risk for severe illness."

Sign up to our main daily newsletter here and get all the latest news straight to your inbox for FREE