What is Arcturus/XBB.1.16?
Arcturus/XBB.1.16 is a mutated cousin of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant and was initially identified in India in January month. Its ongoing strain XBB caused cases to quadruple in just a single month in some countries. According to WHO, it is one of more than 600 Omicron sub-variants at present circulating.
There are some other sub-variants including Kraken (XBB.1.5) & Orthrus (CH.1.1). As per the latest deets from the UK Health Security Agency, sub-variant Kraken was the dominant strain in the country, as of 26 March, causing 51% of cases. Sub-variant Orthrus was abaft at 10.4%.
Symptoms of Arcturus/XBB.1.16:
Typically COVID-19 symptoms are known to include a high fever, cough, cold, and loss of the sense of taste or smell.
But some health experts said that the symptoms of this variant include: high fever, cough, and “itchy” conjunctivitis or pinkeye. The variant Arcturus is causing conjunctivitis or pink eye, which is a slightly different symptom than other existing variants.
Are Arcturus/XBB.1.16 Symptoms Deadly:
It is expected that Arcturus/XBB.1.16 is the most contagious variant yet, but it does not seem to be deadlier than other existing COVID-19 strains. But a hike in the tally of cases could put health services under pressure.
Why is Arcturus a Variant of Concern?
The WHO is currently actively monitoring the Arcturus strain, with health officials saying the strain has certain mutations of concern.
A press conference held on 29th March, in which Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID technical lead, stated: ‘We haven’t noticed a change in seriousness in people, but that’s why we have these systems in place.’
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove added: ‘Arcturus has one auxiliary mutation in the S protein which in laboratory research demonstrates both increased infectivity and potential increased pathogenicity.’
Due to this variant, cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly in India, with infections soaring around 13-fold within the past month. This has prompted the country’s health authorities to run mock drills in hospitals to assess the preparedness for COVID and reintroduce public mask mandates in particular regions.
According to a study, the new COVID variant named Arcturus may be 1.2 times more transmissible than the closely-related strain named Kraken whose shared ancestor was expected to be just as infectious as measles.
Where has Arcturus/XBB.1.16 been Spotted?
As per recent findings, the variant of concern has been spotted in 22 nations, but the large-scale outbreak by far is in India.