Health Officials Note Upswing in COVID-19 Activity, Urge Vigilance

Health Officials Note Upswing in COVID-19 Activity

United States: After witnessing a downwards trend for a few months, the COVID-19 linked activity has again reported an upsurge in the United States. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has mentioned the nation has been reporting an increase in the test positivity rates and emergency room visits – linked to COVID-19.

The new FLiRT variants have been regarded as the major reason behind the sudden upsurge. The experts have outlined that the new variants are a part of the Omicron family, and a surge is noticed during the spring season. The official report has suggested that out of the total number of cases, around 50% of the infection is linked to COVID-19, according to HuffPost.

What Experts Have to Comment?

While addressing this increase in COVID-19-related activities, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases – Dr Robert H Hopkins, Jr, mentioned that this year, the COVID-19 summer wave started a bit early, and it is showing no sign of slowing down.

During a conversation with HuffPost, Hopkins was quoted saying, “I suspect it’s going to increase. It seems like we’re seeing more and more states showing increased levels of activity.”

COVID-19 Spike and Summer Season – New Variant!

The FLiRT variants are sub-variants from JN.1, the dominant strain in the US last winter. These variants seem to be highly contagious due to mutations in the spike protein, which potentially enhance the virus’s ability to bind to human cells.

While explaining the same, Hopkins mentioned, “When we look at their molecular profile, some of those mutations potentially could allow the [virus] to escape from previous immunity.”

Dr Nikhil Bhayani, an assistant professor in internal medicine at the Burnett School of Medicine at Texas Christian University, reports that one variant, KP.3, is currently on the rise, accounting for about 25% of cases, as per HuffPost.

Two other variants in the FLiRT family, KP.2 and KP.1.1, are responsible for 22.5% and 7.5% of infections, respectively. Research from Japan indicates that KP.2, which was the dominant variant last spring, is more transmissible than earlier strains and might be better at evading vaccines.

However, according to Hopkins, the FLiRT variants are likely to cause the usual COVID-19 symptoms: fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, body aches, and, less frequently, loss of taste and smell.

Along with this, the experts have outlined that the increase in the number of cases is not the reason behind the upsurge reported in hospital admissions. Hopkins was quoted saying, “There’s no evidence they’re more severe than what we’ve been dealing with.”

Booster Shot Against Infection!

All major vaccine manufacturers are expected to release an updated shot in the fall, likely targeting the KP.2 strain. If you’re debating whether to get a booster now or wait for the new one, Dr. Bhayani says there’s no bad time to get a booster.

While the updated shot might be more effective against current strains, the existing vaccines should still provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, according to research.

When to get your next dose depends on your overall health and the timing of your last booster or infection. Health experts generally recommend spacing doses at least four months apart.

If you were recently infected or vaccinated, it might be wise to wait for the new shot later this year, advises Gordon. “I’d recommend delaying vaccination because the benefit at this point would be minimal,” she said.

However, Hopkins suggests that individuals aged 65 and older who haven’t received the latest vaccine should get a booster now. The same advice applies to immunocompromised individuals who haven’t had a shot in the past two months.

In this regard, Hopkins was quoted saying, “Why take a chance with this current surge if we’ve got something that is going to reduce your severity of illness?”

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