The world is currently grappling with the sub-variant of the Omicron, which has been circulating since early 2022. One of the 600 sub-variants of Omicron, the XBB.1.16 or Arcturus, is currently causing a surge in COVID cases in India and is also spreading rapidly in the US, accounting for 11.7% of all COVID cases. This variant has been added as a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on April 17, 2023.
Experts are warning that high fever and pink eye are particularly present among children infected with Arcturus, with conjunctivitis being seen in 42.8% of kids having COVID infection and is more prevalent among infants.
Dr. Vipin M. Vashishtha, a pediatrician, tweeted about this symptom seen in kids, noting that the youngest infant to catch the virus was a 13-day-old neonate. Unlike the previous waves of the Omicron virus, respiratory symptoms are predominating in young infants.
Arcturus is also causing classic COVID symptoms in adults, such as body aches, fever, extreme muscle pain, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea-like motion, and vomiting. Adults, the majority of whom have been vaccinated against COVID at least once, are showing these signs. High fever is a characteristic of the infection caused by Arcturus, and it is associated with a higher-grade fever than other variants.
Arcturus is growing at a faster rate than other variants and is “rapidly outcompeting” others in India, according to Dr. Stephen Griffin, a virologist from the University of Leeds. He expressed concern over the spread of the variant, which is more concerning due to the lack of genome sequencing and tracking.
The current outbreak caused by Arcturus is causing a mild febrile illness, with a total duration of illness lasting only 1-3 days. Young infants are disproportionately affected by the current surge in cases in India.
The emergence of the Arcturus variant is causing concern as it is rapidly spreading and causing symptoms that are different from previous waves of the virus. With high fever and pink eye being prevalent among children infected with the virus, caution needs to be exercised to prevent the spread of this variant. Adults too are showing classic COVID symptoms, and it is essential to monitor the spread of this variant to prevent a larger outbreak.