Expert Doctors: If You Notice This Symptom, It Could Be the New COVID Variant

Updated: Apr. 29, 2024

It's dubbed KP.2, and experts say it's taking over as the most prominent strain. Here's what makes KP.2 different from other COVID variants.

Markers for COVID infection have waned in the U.S. for several weeks following a winter peak after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. National data suggests that over the past few weeks, positive tests, hospitalizations, and serious outcomes have all declined, which is encouraging.

However, as seen in previous years, the warmer weather accompanying spring doesn’t always bring a significant lull in COVID cases like it does for seasonal illnesses such as flu. The recent emergence of a new dominant mutation of the COVID-19 virus could lead to a resurgence of cases during the summer.

While it’s too soon for experts to predict, increased COVID infections could be on the horizon as a new variant, dubbed KP.2, takes over as the most prominent strain, according to projections from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

JN.1 had been the dominant strain for several months, rapidly displacing all other strains due to its transmissibility. Although JN.1 was highly transmissible, it has generally caused milder illness, with previous infections and vaccines working to prevent serious outcomes compared to other strains.

Experts are explaining that KP.2 evolved from JN.1 and carries two mutations of the spike protein that could raise concerns. COVID-19 is known for its frequent mutations that can help it evade immunity and continue infecting people. 

Current, though early, research on KP.2 suggests it will behave similarly to JN.1 in some ways. The fact that it has risen to prominence further supports that it will be highly transmissible, like JN.1.

Preliminary research suggests KP.2 may have some ability to evade the immunity often provided by vaccines and previous infections. However, since it is a mutation of JN.1, vaccines designed for JN.1 will likely provide some level of protection against it. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes in its update on improving future vaccines that KP.2 is “rapidly spreading in multiple regions as of April 2024.” The organization adds that “the potential public health impact of newly emerged (e.g., KP.2) and future variants remains unknown.”

Symptoms that could mean a new COVID infection

While this new variant is being studied, if you become ill even though you’ve had COVID before or have been vaccinated, be on the lookout for the following symptoms, according to the CDC:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Research consistently illustrates that the best way to prevent a new COVID-19 infection is to stay up to date with your vaccines. Your vaccination status depends on your age and previous vaccinations. According to CDC guidelines, people aged five to 64 years should have received one dose of the updated vaccine, while those 65 or older should have received two doses. Anyone with a compromised immune system should consult a healthcare provider to discuss adequate vaccination.

As always, focusing on preventing the spread of new infections is crucial, including frequent handwashing and staying away from others when you’re sick. Although CDC guidelines say people are no longer mandated to isolate with a COVID infection, they should stay home when they’re sick and return to normal activities only when they’re feeling better and have been fever-free for 24 hours.