Summer Surge of COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.: What You Need to Know

Summer Surge of COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.: What You Need to KnowiMAGE

Understanding the Rise in Cases and the Impact of FLiRT Variants

By Kevin Murphy

As summer heats up, the U.S. is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with emergency room visits and deaths from the virus on the rise. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a significant increase in COVID-related emergency room visits and deaths. From June 16 to June 22, emergency room visits jumped by more than 23%, and COVID-related deaths have increased by 14.3% in recent weeks.

Despite these increases, the overall percentage of U.S. deaths from COVID remains low at 0.8%, and all indicators are still far below the levels seen during previous surges. Experts attribute the current upswing to the emergence of new FLiRT variants, which include strains such as KP.3, KP.2, and KP.1.1. These variants, all part of the Omicron lineage, have become the dominant strains across the U.S., with KP.3 and KP.2 alone accounting for more than 50% of current cases.

The CDC has pointed out that such mutations are expected as viruses constantly change through mutation, sometimes resulting in new variants. “Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some changes and mutations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. As the virus spreads, it may change and become harder to stop,” the agency explained on its website.

One notable aspect of the FLiRT variants is their symptom profile. While these variants do not appear to cause more severe illness, there is one symptom that stands out as particularly common: a sore throat. “Unfortunately, one of the most common COVID symptoms currently seems to be a sore throat with or without a mild fever,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Andreas M. Kogelnik, MD, PhD., in an interview with Parade. “I say unfortunately because—of course—a sore throat can be attributed to many different causes.”

As the situation continues to evolve, it’s important to stay informed and take necessary precautions to protect yourself and others. Keep an eye on local health advisories, stay up-to-date with vaccinations, and practice good hygiene to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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