May 15, 2024 - Health

🦠 New COVID-19 variants emerging

Illustration of a covid particle reflected in a rearview mirror

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

To most Americans, COVID-19 now ranks with everyday risks. But the emergence of new variants called FLiRT is a fresh reminder the coronavirus is still evolving, even with hospitalizations at record lows.

State of play: A new variant, KP.2, accounts for a quarter of U.S. cases and just overtook JN.1 as the dominant strain, while a sister variant, KP.1.1, is also rising and represents 7.1% of cases as of last night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The variants don't appear to cause different or more serious symptoms. They're descended from Omicron and have mutations in the spike protein that make them more easily transmitted.

Threat level: The latest wastewater samples in Portland suggest a sustained increase in the community presence of COVID-19.

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