Handling the FLiRT

Handling the FLiRT
Posted 02 May 2024 | Source: https://www.newindianexpress.com/

Here’s everything you need to know about the new Covid variant, FLiRT (Fast-Transmitting, Low-Immunity, Rapid-Transforming) that has crept into India.

BENGALURU: The term FLiRT variants refer to a group of Covid-19 variants, including KP.2 and JN.1.7, among these variants KP.2 is one of several variants referred to as ‘FLiRT variants’, named after the technical names for their mutations. These JN.1 descendants share similar mutations, suggesting independent evolution towards a potentially more transmissible form. KP.2, JN.1.7 (FLiRT), and other related variants are all descendants of the JN.1 variant, which has been the dominant strain in the US for the past several months.

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 mutate (change/confuse) frequently. These mutations can sometimes help the virus escape detection by antibodies. However, such changes might also weaken the virus’s ability to bind to the cells it aims to infect. To compensate, new mutations often arise that enhance the virus’ binding ability, improving its effectiveness. This evolutionary step between evading immune detection and maintaining infectivity is key to how these new variants evolve and spread.


While the symptoms of FLiRT variants appear mild and resemble those of JN.1 (runny nose, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, congestion, and sore throat), there are reasons to be cautious.

It can take five or more days for symptoms to appear after exposure, and some people may even experience a return of symptoms after feeling better (rebound symptoms). Additionally, the virus can be contagious for 1-2 days before symptoms appear and for a few days after they subside.

Although most symptoms are mild, rare cases may involve diarrhoea, skin rash, discoloured toes (Covid toes), and confusion. In severe scenarios, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, and severe pneumonia can occur, requiring immediate hospitalisation.

Preventive measures

  • Mask it Up: Wear masks in crowded spaces
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Avoid large gatherings and crowded places, especially indoor and poor-ventilated areas
  • Wash hands with soap or alcohol-based sanitiser for at least 20 seconds and rinse it thoroughly and avoid touching your face frequently
  • Improve ventilation in your surroundings and at home
  • Follow local guidelines and restrictions.

Should we be concerned about it?

While symptoms seem mild, with updated Covid-19 vaccines most population can fight-off infection, and due to increased population immunity, only immunocompromised patients must be careful as they may suffer from severe disease. We’re not seeing anything new or different with these variants and it is not a concern. However, we can’t ignore the potential threat. The infectious window remains like previous variants, so masking and good ventilation is still crucial. Precautions like wearing masks in crowded areas, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and choosing well-ventilated places can make a difference. By taking precautions, we can slow the spread and protect vulnerable populations.

(The writer is consultant - infectious disease & travel medicine, Aster CMI Hospital)