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New COVID ‘FLiRT’ variants are spreading nationwide. Chicago health experts urge up to date vaccination.

9 May 2024 1:10 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

A new family of COVID variants nicknamed “FLiRT” is spreading across the country, as vaccination rates in Chicago — as well as nationwide — remain concerningly low for some public health experts. [Chicago Tribune]

While symptoms and severity seem to be about the same as previous COVID strains, the new FLiRT variants appear to be more transmissible, said infectious disease expert Dr. Robert Murphy.

“A new, more contagious variant is out there,” said Murphy, executive director of Northwestern University’s Institute for Global Health and a professor of infectious diseases at the Feinberg School of Medicine. “COVID-19 is still with us, and compared to flu and RSV, COVID-19 can cause significant problems off-season.”

Murphy urged the public to get up to date on COVID shots, particularly individuals who are at higher risk for severe complications from the virus. While much of the population has some immunity from vaccination or previous COVID infections, Murphy noted that “with COVID-19, immunity wanes over time.”

One FLiRT variant, KP.2, is estimated to account for roughly a quarter of recent COVID cases, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from late April.



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