Arcturus: New COVID-19 variant spreading in the U.S with new symptom

ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s a new COVID-19 variant spreading across the globe bringing with it a new symptom.

The World Health Organization identified the new variant as XBB.1.16 or “Arcturus.”


Here are 9 thing to know about the variant, according to AdventHealth:

1. According to health officials, COVID-19 is still a leading cause of death around the world, including in the United States where it’s tied to about 250 deaths daily.

2. The World Health Organization is currently classifying XBB.1.16 or Arcturus as a “variant under monitoring,” which is less serious than “variant of interest” or “variant of concern.” However, the classifications are fluid and can change at any time.

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3. AdventHealth said the Arcturus variant has a higher transmissibility rate than previous strains.

4. The new variant brings with it an all-new COVID-19 symptom: conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, which is often combined with itchiness.

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5. Arcturus is responsible for a surge in COVID case counts in some parts of the world, including India, where itchy or “sticky” eyes have been most frequently reported in children, along with typical flu-like symptoms of a cough, cold and fever.

6. XBB.1.16 has been detected in 22 countries, including the United States.

7. Out of the 10 health care regions defined by the CDC, Arcturus appears to be the most prevalent in Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. In that region, it made up 21% of all COVID cases during the week of April 9.

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8. While higher levels of infection are being seen with newer variants, generally, they tend to be causing less severe illness.

9. The less severe illness is likely the result of higher vaccination rates, higher rates of immunity from previous infection and a weakening in the potential to produce disease in recent variants.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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