April 19, 2023
Medscape reports the World Health Organization has identified a ‘variant under monitoring’ based on its rise in cases and that it may cause previously unseen symptoms in children. “Arcturus” is a subvariant of Omicron designated XBB 1.16. While it has yet to make the CDC’s watchlist, it has been documented in more than two dozen countries, including the United States.
According to The Times of India, cases of children in the second most populous country are presenting with “itchy” or “sticky” eyes, as if they have conjunctivitis or pinkeye, a prominent pediatrician shared. This is in addition to high fever and cough. The news outlet recorded 234 new cases of XBB 1.16 in the country’s 5,676 new infections.
Indian health officials are also monitoring a simultaneous rise in adenovirus, which complicates the situation due to its similar symptom presentation. One doctor told the newspaper that two to three of every 10 children with COVID-like symptoms had first tested positive on a home COVID test.
Arcturus has one additional mutation in the spike protein that lab studies show increases infectivity. To test infrastructure in the event of a continued rise in cases, the BBC reports health officials are conducting mock drills for preparedness.
PIDS member Liz Schlaudecker commented, “A new COVID-19 variant, Arcturus (formally, Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16), has been added to the World Health Organization’s watch list. This particular subvariant has reportedly been causing some common COVID-19 symptoms, including fever and cough, as well as the more unusual symptom of “itchy” eyes. This symptom has made it difficult to distinguish COVID-19 infection from other viruses, particularly adenovirus, in India, where the number of cases in children less than 12 years of age is rising.”