Here’s what you should know about FLiRT, the new COVID strains

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California is among the states experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 indicators after a relatively calm spring season.

The FLiRT subvariants, officially known as KP.2, KP.3, and KP.1., are subvariants of Omicron and have overtaken the dominant winter variant, known as JN.1.

KP.2 accounted for 28.2% of COVID infections in the U.S. by the third week of May, making it the dominant coronavirus variant in the country; another, KP.1.1, made up 7.1% of cases, according to a blog post from Yale Medicine.

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Some experts have suggested that the latest subvariants could lead to a summer surge, but current reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that COVID-19 cases have been dropping since January and remain “minimal.”

While all isn’t known about the newly mutated virus, experts question if FLiRT will continue to evolve before the winter, when infections and hospitalizations usually rise, and whether the virus strains will be included as a component of an updated fall COVID vaccine.

Here’s a rundown of what officials know so far and what you can do to keep yourself protected

Vaccines

Doctors continue to urge people to consider getting up-to-date vaccinations, especially if they are in higher-risk groups.

In California, only 36% of seniors aged 65 and older have received an updated vaccination, which first became available in September.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone, 6 months and older, to get one dose of the updated vaccine. A second dose is also recommended for those ages 65 and older, as long as at least four months have passed since their last shot, according to the L.A. Times.

Testing

COVID tests should be able to detect the FLiRT strains, according to Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Scott Roberts.

Experts recommend that people who are feeling sick take a test daily. People should consider taking a rapid COVID test once a day for three to five consecutive days after experiencing symptoms. It’s important to note that it could take longer for a COVID-19 rapid test to show a positive after an onset of illness.

Planning

Those interested can also ask their doctors about Paxlovid, an antiviral drug aimed at people who are at risk of severe COVID-19 and who have mild-to-moderate illness, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death.

Although less common now, Masks are also handy in preventing infection, especially in crowded situations.

What to do if you get sick

Health officials still recommend that people who test positive for COVID-19 wear a mask, avoid contact with those with a higher risk of catching severe COVID-19 and, if needed, seek medical treatment, according to the updated guidelines released in January.

As of Jan. 9, people who test positive for COVID-19 but have mild symptoms and have been fever-free without the help of medication may return to school or work after one day of isolation.

More COVID-19 guidelines can be found here.

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