Everything you need to know about new 'Arcturus' Covid strain – as new symptom strikes kids | The Sun

Everything you need to know about new 'Arcturus' Covid strain – as new symptom strikes kids | The Sun

COVID is once again on the rise in the form of a new variant, nicknamed 'Arcturus'.

XBB.1.16, as it's officially titled, is ravaging parts of India.

And now the Omicron off-shoot has been detected in the UK.

What is the Arcturus variant?

Arcturus is is an omicron subvariant which has undergone several mutations that increase its ability to spread between humans. 

Scientists studying the new bug believe it's better than it's predecessors at evading immune protection from vaccination or previous infection.

Japanese researchers have suggested it is 1.2 times more infectious than the already super transmissible it's forerunner, Kraken.

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However, there is no evidence it increases severity of disease.

As of April 13, India's Ministry of Health recorded 44,998 active Covid-19 cases – 4,783 more than the previous day.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Covid technical lead, said the health body had first identified the Arcturus variant in January.

“It's been in circulation for a few months.

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“We haven’t seen a change in severity in individuals or in populations, but that’s why we have these systems in place.”

She said that laboratory studies showed “increased infectivity as well as potential increased pathogenicity”.

Dr Maria added that while XBB.1.16 had been detected in other countries most sequences were from India where it had replaced other variants.

So far, it's been detected in 20 additional countries, including the UK and US.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, there are currently less than 100 cases in the country and ore severe illness hasn’t been found in people infected with the new variant.

What are its symptoms?

Omicron typically causes a collection of cold or flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • fatigue (mild or severe)
  • sneezing
  • sore throat

But Dr Vipin Vashishtha – a paediatrician and former head of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Immunisation – said the spread of Arcturus in India was bringing with it a new symptom that hadn't been present in earlier waves.

He said symptoms affecting the eyes were seeing a sudden surge in children.

The doctor said he was treating increasing numbers of infants with fever, cough and cold symptoms, and conjunctivitis causing 'itchy' and 'sticky' eyes.

However, there is currently no hard evidence to prove whether Arcturus is driving this new range of symptoms in children.

Will my vaccine work against it?

Early research suggests there is no need to be concerned about the a Arcturus.

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The mammoth rollout of vaccines across the UK means many already have some level of protection from the bug.

And even though the variant is causing infections in people who have been vaccinated, it doesn't mean its capable of causing severe illness.

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