Experts in infectious diseases and public health officials are on high alert following the announcement of a new COVID-19 variant XBB.1.16, also known as Arcturus, by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO is keeping an eye on the new omicron subvariant, which has been found in over 20 countries (including the United States) and is believed to be responsible for the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in India.
Health officials have now confirmed the first death linked to the new COVID subvariant.
According to Dr. Supakit Sirilak, director-general of Thailand’s Medical Sciences Department, an old man who was not identified recently passed away in Thailand. He stated that the deceased was “an elderly foreigner” with preexisting medical conditions.
“His death, therefore, may not directly reflect the severity of this subvariant but rather its impact on other risk factors,” Sirilak said.
Dublin Live reported:
Arcturus, which is a subvariant of Omicron, was first seen in India and has been on the World Health Organisation’s watchlist since the end of March. Prof Dr. Yong Poovorawan, who heads the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said to PBS it will inevitably become Thailand’s dominant subvariant soon.
Russian health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor announced on Tuesday that it detected its first of several cases and said it may have “greater contagiousness.”
Rospotrebnadzor’s statement continued: “But is not characterised by high pathogenicity. That is, the disease caused by it proceeds in a mild form”.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (in the US), said Arcturus is causing 7% of coronavirus cases in the country. Meaning it is now in second place behind its cousin Omicron. Indonesia has reported five new cases of Arcturus subvariant.
The new variant is reportedly 1.2 times more infectious than the Omicron variant, according to a study by the University of Tokyo published on the biology research website bioRxiv. Dr Vipin Vashishtha, the former head of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Immunisation, tweeted that pediatric cases of Covid were on the increase for the first time in six months.
Conjunctivitis – an eye infection causing redness, itchiness and swelling in the eyes – has also been present in paediatric cases. Mayo Clinic viral disease expert Matthew Binnicker, Ph.D., told The Seattle Times: “One new feature of cases caused by this variant is that it seems to be causing conjunctivitis, or red and itchy eyes, in young patients.
“This is not something that we’ve seen with prior strains of the virus”.
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