Covid variant Arcturus: Rare symptom of conjunctivitis reported in India - is it more infectious?

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A new Covid variant, which has been found to be more infectious, is said to have an added rare symptom of conjunctivitis or pinkeye.

A new Covid variant, which has been found to be “more infectious”, is said to have an added rare symptom of conjunctivitis, according to a doctor. The new coronavirus strain, named Arcturus, has been confirmed in the UK by the UK Health Security Agency, although there are fewer than 100 cases.

However, the variant has become prevalent in India, forcing the states of Haryana and Kerana to reintroduce mask wearing in public. India’s health ministry has even gone as far as to launch mock drills this week in an attempt to see if hospitals were prepared to deal with a possible influx of patients.

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Apart from typical symptoms of fever and a cough, people suffering from the new strain in India have also been suffering from “itchy” conjunctivitis or pinkeye. Dr Vipin Vashishtha, a paediatrician and former head of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee told The Hindustan Times about the unusual pattern of patients having the pinkeye in cases in the country.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has begun monitoring the new Omicron strain XBB.1.16 Arcturus, which was discovered on March 22. Arcturus may be 1.2 times more contagious than the previous important subvariant, according to study.

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid technical lead said up until now the Kraken XBB.1.5 strain has been dominant but now the new variant is spreading in 22 countries and is more infectious.

Ms Van Kerkhove told a press conference last month: "One of the variants that we are looking at, and I think you specifically mentioned India, is a variant that we have under monitoring. This is the XBB.1.16.

"It’s actually very similar in profile to XBB.1.5. It has one additional mutation in the spike protein which in lab studies shows increased infectivity, as well as potential increased pathogenicity.”

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