Emergence of ‘FLiRT’ Subvariants Fuels COVID-19 Resurgence in Australia


Australia is facing a new wave of COVID-19 cases driven by a family of highly transmissible subvariants collectively nicknamed ‘FLiRT’. Health authorities have warned of increasing infection numbers and hospitalizations in recent weeks, with FLiRT being a key contributor to this surge.

FLiRT is composed of several similar subvariants, including KP.1, KP.2, JN.1.7, and a range of others. First recorded five months ago, this new family of subvariants has quickly become a cause for concern, with KP.2 already becoming the dominant strain in the United States.

According to data from NSW Health, KP.2 accounted for approximately 50% of COVID infections in the state until May 4. The rise in cases is evident in the national statistics as well. In April, 20,699 COVID cases were reported across Australia, while 25,423 cases have been reported up to May 23 – an increase of 4,724, and the month is not over yet.

The symptoms associated with FLiRT are similar to those of past variants, including a cough, fatigue, fever or chills, headaches, congestion, and nausea. However, it is not yet known whether FLiRT results in more severe infections compared to previous variants.

As Australia grapples with this new wave of COVID-19, health authorities are closely monitoring the situation and urging the public to remain vigilant. The emergence of FLiRT serves as a reminder that the pandemic is far from over, and continued efforts are necessary to control the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations.

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