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Louisville sees modest COVID-19 ‘summer spike’ as new variants arise

This image shows a closeup of what the coronavirus looks like. It shows a gray ball with red and orange-colored proteins attached to it.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A few new COVID-19 variants are in the global spotlight this summer. Here in Jefferson County, data indicate there has been a modest spike in the virus' prevalence during August.

Jefferson County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19. So far, though, it isn’t as high as previous surges.

The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville tracks the prevalence of COVID in the Metro area’s wastewater. Its latest report, which was released this week, shows the viral levels increased during the first two weeks of August.

However, the levels aren’t as high as they were in the early months of 2023. And researchers told LPM News they’re well below previous spikes.

They also said local hospital data suggest there has not been an increase in cases of acute illness.

Dr. Mark Burns, an infectious diseases specialist with U of L Health, said there are two dominant versions of COVID right now: The EG.5, or Eris, variant, and the F.L.1.5.1 variant.

“We've had somewhat of a summer spike, if you will,” Burns said this week.

He said it hasn’t hit the magnitude seen in previous years, though. COVID-19 first emerged in late 2019.

Burns said the coronavirus’ leading variants now are comparable to older ones in terms of symptoms. Look out for fevers, congestion and chills.

Meanwhile, scientists recently identified a brand-new variant. Burns indicated that the jury’s still out on that one.

It’s called the BA.2.8.6 variant, and so far only a few cases have been confirmed worldwide.

Burns said researchers are closely monitoring it.

“Because we don't know a lot about its transmissibility,” he explained. “But what we do know is that it does have a large number of mutations.”

An updated COVID-19 vaccine is slated for release this fall, and Burns recommends people get it.

Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.