New Omicron Subvariant XBB.1.16 Detected

XBB.1.16, a subvariant of the Omicron strain named “Arcturus,” has been detected in more than 20 countries and is believed to be responsible for the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in India. The World Health Organization has closely monitored this highly transmissible variant since March 22 and categorized it as a “variant under observation.” Arcturus has been detected in the United States and is expanding its reach quickly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began reporting Arcturus cases on April 14. According to the latest CDC data, the variant accounts for 7% of the nation’s new COVID-19 cases.

There have been anecdotal reports, including from researchers in India and the United States, suggesting that the XBB.1.16 variant of COVID-19 may induce a unique symptom not observed with previous coronavirus strains. Doctors are noting that this new variant appears to be causing pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, among children and teenagers. Common pink eye symptoms include a pink or red color in the white of the eye, itchy or burning eyes and increased tear production or mucus discharge. Keep in mind that conjunctivitis is rarely the only symptom of an XBB.1.16 infection. It usually accompanies the standard COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough and shortness of breath).

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