Maharashtra Identifies 91 Cases Of New Covid-19 Variant ‘FLiRT’: Here’s All You Need To Know

<p>Maharashtra has flagged 91 cases of the new Covid-19 Omicron subvariant KP.2, which has surpassed the previously dominant JN.1 variant. Pune reported the highest number of KP.2 cases, standing at 51, with Thane closely following with 20 cases, as per report by Times of India.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Identified in January, the KP.2 variant gained dominance by March and April in Maharashtra. As per a report by the Economic Times, Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, the state’s genome sequencing coordinator, noted an increase in cases but no corresponding surge in hospitalisation or severe cases.&nbsp;</p>
<h2><strong>Spread And Dominance</strong></h2>
<p>A minor rise in the cases was observed in March, averaging around 250 detections, likely stemming from the transmission of the KP.2 variant, originating from the prevalent Covid strain JN.1 at the end of 2023, as per the ET report.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Apart from Pune and Thane, seven cases were reported in Amravati, and Aurangabad. Additionally, Solapur had two cases, and Ahmednagar, Nashik, Larur, and Sangli each recorded one KP.2 case. It is to be noted that Mumbai has not reported any cases so far.&nbsp;</p>
<h2><strong>FLiRT Variant And Its Strains&nbsp;</strong></h2>
<p>The recently identified group of variants, known as "FLiRT," includes primarily the KP.1.1 and KP.2 strains. The nomenclature derives from specific mutations, with one strain denoted by "F" and "L" mutations, and the other by "R" and "T" mutations. Initially recognised globally in January, the KP.2 variant currently holds dominance among strains in the US.&nbsp;</p>
<p>As mentioned in the ET report, Japanese researchers conducted a study revealing that the KP.2 (JN. variant, as a descendant of JN.1, carries three unique substitutions in the S protein – S:R346T, S:F456L, and another substitution in a nan-S protein.&nbsp;</p>
<p>These genetic changes majorly altered the reproduction rate of KP.2 compared to its precursor, JN.1. The study suggested that KP.2 has 1.22-, 1.32-, and 1.26- times higher transmission rates than JN.1 in the USA, UK, and Canada, respectively.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Surprisingly, despite a higher reproduction number, KP.2 exhibited significantly lower infectivity than JN.1, with a 10.5-fold difference.&nbsp;</p>
<h2><strong>Characteristics Of KP.1.1 Variant&nbsp;</strong></h2>
<p>The KP.2 Variant of Covid-19 spreads faster than the KP.1.1 variant, another FLiRT variant. The latest data from the US CDC indicated that KP.2 accounted for 28% of Covid cases in the United States, while KP.1.1 cases comprise only 7.1% of all cases.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Currently, the variants JN.1, JN.1.7, JN.1.13.1 are extensively spreading across the United States.&nbsp;</p>
<h2><strong>Vaccine Effectiveness On KP.2</strong></h2>
<p>Experts suggested that individuals previously infected with the JN.1 variant could be susceptible to KP.2, particularly after a prolonged period since their last infection, ET report said.&nbsp;</p>
<p>The latest vaccine focusing on the XBB.1.5 variant may not offer full protection against KP.2 due to significant differences between JN.1 and its offspring, it added.&nbsp;</p>
<p>A preliminary study by the Japanese researchers indicated that KP.1 might be more efficient in infecting persons vaccinated with the latest Covid vaccine. However, vaccines continue to provide some protection, especially against severe illness, the ET report said.&nbsp;</p>
<p>The CDC stated no current evidence suggested that KP.2 leads to more severe illness. However, specific groups like individuals aged 65 and above, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems remain more susceptible to severe Covid-19 complications.</p>
<h2><strong>Symptoms Of KP.2 And JN.1 Variants</strong></h2>
<p>As per the recent information, KP.2 and JN.1 variants result in symptoms similar to other variants, like:&nbsp;</p>
<li>Sore throat,</li>
<li>Runny nose,</li>
<li>Body aches,&nbsp;</li>
<li>Shortness of breath (in some cases)</li>
<li>Fewer cases report loss of taste and smell, as per the ED report.&nbsp;</li>
<p>As per the report, patients are also surprised to learn that Covid can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.</p>
<h2><strong>What Precautions Should Be Taken?&nbsp;</strong></h2>
<p>To protect against Covid-19, it is crucial to wear masks in crowded places, maintain hand hygiene, practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces, clean frequently touched surfaces, stay home when sick, follow local guidelines, and support vaccination campaigns.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Adhering to such practices can reduce the risk of virus transmission.&nbsp;</p>
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