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Latest Updates on COVID-19 Variant KP.3: Test Positivity, Mortality Rates, and Symptoms

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the KP.3 variant has now become the predominant variant in the U.S., surpassing the previously dominant JN.1 variant.

Using the Nowcast data tracker, CDC data reveals that during the two-week period from May 26 to June 8, KP.3 accounted for 25% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Other variants such as KP.2 and “FLiRT” continue to contribute to COVID-19 infections in the country.

Here’s what you need to know about the KP.3 variant of COVID-19:

What is the KP.3 variant? KP.3 is a sublineage of the JN.1 lineage, originating from the Omicron variant, as explained by CDC spokesperson Rosa Norman to USA TODAY.

Norman stated, “KP.3 evolved from JN.1, which was the primary viral lineage circulating since December 2023. It is very similar to JN.1 and differs by only two changes in the spike protein compared to JN.1.”

Current COVID-19 Situation in the U.S. While the rates of deaths and hospitalizations have significantly decreased, recent data indicates a rise in positive tests and emergency room visits.

As of June 10, the CDC reported a 0.4% increase in test positivity from the previous week and a 16.2% rise in COVID-19 emergency department visits compared to the prior week.

Symptoms of the KP.3 COVID-19 Variant According to information previously provided to USA TODAY by Norman, symptoms associated with KP.3 are identical to those of the JN.1 variant. These include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • “Brain fog” (feeling less alert and aware)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (upset stomach, mild diarrhea, vomiting)

The CDC notes that this list may not encompass all potential symptoms, and symptoms may vary among individuals and evolve with new variants.

COVID Fall Vaccine Targeting JN.1 The dominance of the KP.3 variant coincides with an FDA panel meeting this month to discuss updates to a COVID-19 vaccine for the upcoming fall season.

At the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, representatives from vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax informed the panel of their readiness to provide vaccines targeting JN.1 by August, pending FDA approval.

These updated vaccines are slated for release in the fall, in anticipation of potential increases in COVID-19 cases during the winter months.

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