Are we at risk of a new pandemic wave from the new strain of coronavirus? – Concern about an increase in cases in the summer

The FLiRT variant of the coronavirus is increasing in Europe and the US although there is little evidence that it is more dangerous.

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A new variant of the coronavirus, known as FLiRT, began to appear in the United States in the first months of 2024.

The new strain has made its global appearance, causing concern among health professionals about a possible spike in cases in the summer, according to a report by CNBC.

FLiRT variants, named after the names of the mutations in the genetic code of the variants, are increasing in Europe and the US although there is little evidence that the new strains are more dangerous.

It is possible that the new strains will likely lead to an increase in cases during the coming summer months

At this point it seems unlikely that the new strains will cause a large wave of infections, as has been seen in the past when herd immunity was lower, said Jennifer Horney, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Delaware.

However, he noted that the new strains will likely lead to an increase in cases during the coming summer months.

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In 14 European countries

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the dominant strain in the US today is KP.2, accounting for 28,2% of all cases in the previous two weeks, up from 3,8% in end of March.

Cases of KP.1.1, another FLiRT variant, have also increased and account for 7,1% of current infections, according to the same figures.

And in Europe, cases are on the rise, with the new variant now detected in 14 countries, CNBC reports.

Do you need a new dose of vaccine?

According to Forbes, the new FLiRT variant has several mutations resulting in the production of a protein that may not be recognized by antibodies from a previous infection or vaccination.

Therefore, if more than six months have passed since your last vaccination or infection, you are unlikely to be fully protected.

Existing antibodies may prevent severe disease, but may not prevent infection and subsequent mild disease.

An updated vaccine that is more specific to the newly circulating strains is expected this fall and will likely be recommended alongside the annual flu shot.

What do we know and not know about FLiRT variants?

We know that the FLiRT variants have two mutations in their spike proteins (the spike-like protrusions on the surface of the virus) that were not seen in JN.1 (the formerly dominant strain in the US). Some experts say these mutations could make it easier for the virus to evade people's immunity—from the vaccine or from a previous bout of COVID.

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First vaccination day at Belgium's largest vaccination center at Brussels Expo in Brussels, Belgium on February 16, 2021.

But the fact that the FLiRT variants are otherwise genetically similar to JN.1 is reassuring. While the JN.1 strain emerged during the winter months, when people congregate indoors and the virus is more likely to spread, its symptoms were milder than those caused by variants in the early years of the pandemic.

There is no news yet on whether a COVID illness will be more severe with the FLiRT variants or how the symptoms may change. Because everyone is different, a person's symptoms and the severity of their COVID disease usually depend less on the strain they are infected with and more on their immunity and general health.