(Photo: Illustrative/Pexels)

According to health authorities, there are new COVID-19 variants on the rise, and these have the potential to cause a summer surge of illness in our community. There are two new strains, which scientists have named KP.2 and KP.1.1, but which have been collectively nicknamed “FLiRT” based on the mutations present in the virus strains. “FLiRT” was first identified in wastewater in the U.S., but its exact origins are unknown.

As of April 27th, the variant KP.2 makes up about 25% of the cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The other variant, KP.1.1. has not yet become widespread.

Health scientists are already seeing evidence that the “FLiRT” variants may be more contagious, including infecting people who have immunity from vaccines or prior infection. There is some evidence that these variants have led to increased hospitalizations, but current data does not indicate there is an increased risk of death.

The “FLiRT” variant appears to have similar symptoms as previous variants, like JN.1, which include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • “Brain fog” (feeling less aware or difficulty concentrating)
  • Body aches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell

Given the “FLiRT” variants’ ability to infect people, the World Health Organization has advised that future vaccine recipes be formulated based on these strains, not older ones. According to the CDC, only 22.6% of adults reported getting the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine. This is not good news, especially with new variants now in play. As more people become less immune to the virus, it increases our collective risk for a large surge of disease affecting many people.

Natural and vaccine-related immunity fades over time, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with your vaccines and try to maintain precautionary measures like handwashing, using masks and social distancing. As part of its “Our Voices, Our Vaccines” program, Esperanza continues to host monthly pop-up clinics, where you can access the updated COVID-19 and flu vaccines, as well as health screenings. You can contact me, Dr. Jamile Tellez Lieberman, by calling the Esperanza business phone number (215-324-0746),


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