It’s that time of year when allergies are in full swing. Itchy, watery, eyes partnered with sniffles and sneezing.  But CDC officials are now warning, it may not be your season allergies causing these symptoms.

It could be something called “Arcturus” instead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that XBB.1.16, a subvariant of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus dubbed “Arcturus,” has been spreading quickly in India. The number of cases are growing in the United States as well, according to the CDC’s variant tracker. Nearly 1 in 10 people who currently test positive for COVID have the strain, and 9.6% of coronavirus cases nationwide as of April 22.

Doctors say aside from being highly contagious, the new strain has shown a new symptom that has not been seen before in the previous three years- conjunctivitis, particularly in children.

A pediatrician, and member of the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Safety Net program Dr. Vipin M. Vashishtha tweeted, “An infantile phenotype seems emerging—treated infants w/ high fever, cold & cough, & non-purulent, itchy conjunctivitis w/ sticky eyes, not seen in earlier waves.”

Dr. Matthew Binnicker, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, also confirmed the rise of pink eye associated with the new strain.

“New variants come and go. We’re seeing increased transmission rates, so higher levels of infectivity with recent COVID-19 variants, but in general, they tend to be causing less severe disease in individuals, which is good news,” explains Dr. Binnicker. “This is likely due to a combination of factors, including higher vaccination rates, higher rates of immunity from prior infection, and lower pathogenicity of recent variants.”

Currently the CDC considers all of New Jersey’s 21 counties to have “low” community levels of the coronavirus. The state’s health department has stopped reporting the rate of transmission.

Although COVID-19 rates are relatively low, health experts recommend people remain vigilant in using these preventive measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you feel sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19.




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