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New variant jumps to second place on COVID list

April 16, 2023 – The latest COVID-19 variant called “Arcturus” has increased a lot within the United States that it has been placed on the CDC’s watch list.

Arcturus, officially designated XBB.1.16, is a sub-variant of Omicron that was first observed in India and has been on the World Health Organization's watch list since late March. The CDC's latest update now lists Arcturus because the explanation for 7% of coronavirus cases within the United States, making it second place behind its long-dominant omicron cousin XBB.1.5, which causes 78% of cases.

Arcturus is more contagious but no more dangerous than the strains that were recently at the highest of the charts, experts say.

“It is leading to increasing case numbers in certain parts of the world, including India. We are not yet seeing high rates of XBB.1.16 in the United States, but it may become more common in the coming weeks,” Mayo Clinic viral disease expert Matthew Binnicker, PhD, told The Seattle Times.

As Indian health care providers reported, Arcturus has caused a brand new symptom in children.

“One novelty in the cases caused by this variant is that it appears to cause conjunctivitis, or red and itchy eyes, in young patients,” Binnicker said. “This is something we have not seen in previous strains of the virus.”

More than 11,000 people within the U.S. were still hospitalized with COVID at the tip of last week, and 1,327 people died from the virus last week, CDC data show. To date, 6.9 million people have died from COVID worldwide, the WHO says. Of these deaths, greater than 1.1 million occurred within the United States