Watch CBS News

New Covid variant 'Arcturus' could cause new symptom

New Covid variant 'Arcturus' could cause new symptom
New Covid variant 'Arcturus' could cause new symptom 02:28

MIAMI - The World Health Organization has elevated the fast-growing Omicron sublineage XBB.1.16 as a new variant of interest.

XBB.1.16 is a descendant of the recombinant XBB, which is a mashup of two BA.2 sublineages. On social media, the variant has been nicknamed Arcturus, like the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere.

"It was identified in India earlier this year and has spread to 29 other countries, including the US. It is still a part of the Omicron lineage, so these are the particular variants we have been seeing for the last year. It does have a mutation that makes it a little more transmissible, a little more infectious," said Dr. Neha Narula with Stanford Health Care.

Dr. Narula said they are seeing an uptick in children. She added that the good news is that it is not causing more severe disease.

Symptoms from the Arcturus variant differ a little from previous sub-variants.

New Covid variant "Arcturus" transmits faster than other variants 02:32

"When it comes to symptoms we are still seeing things like sore throat, cough, fever, but the new symptom people are talking about is the symptom of conjunctivitis, or as we know it more commonly - pink eye. It is happening in both children and adults," said Dr. Narula.

She said this isn't particularly new for Covid, they saw this with the original strain. However, they are seeing more of it.

"With the prior strain we were seeing more colds and fever, cough, headaches even, pink eye wasn't as common. With this particular strain we are seeing this more commonly and in more patients," said Dr. Narula.

She said that given that we are in allergy season right now and there are other common cold viruses that can cause conjunctivitis, it can be a bit confusing.

"So if you haven't been protected with the vaccines or boosters, go ahead and get those. But if you are having some of these symptoms, watery eyes, red itchy eyes, or other cold symptoms, especially now with this new sub-variant circulating, don't write it off as allergies, go ahead and take that Covid test and talk with your healthcare provider so they can give you further guidance in terms of treatment," said Dr. Narula. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.