Arcturus, an emerging subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus linked to an increase in cases in India, has been identified in Los Angeles County. Arcturus is not more severe than earlier Omicron strains, but it may be more infectious than the predominant coronavirus strain in the United States, according to health officials.
According to health professionals, any increase in transmission heightens the risk for vulnerable individuals and underscores the importance of protective measures. The total number of Arcturus cases in California is still unknown, but at least three have been identified in Los Angeles County.
The unofficial moniker Arcturus is derived from the Greek word arktouros, which means bear guardian or monitor. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is currently believed to be the second-most prevalent coronavirus strain in the United States, accounting for an estimated 7.2% of cases. This is a significant increase from its estimated 2.1% share for the week ending April 1.
Although the current vaccines and medications are likely to be effective against Arcturus, according to health officials, any new mutation that displaces the existing strain is likely to be able to transmit infection more easily. Consequently, a rise in cases may be attributed to this subvariant. Even though case rates in the United States are relatively low, health experts warn that if Arcturus acquires more prominence, it will cause an increase in cases.
Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, has been reported in India among coronavirus-infected individuals, particularly infants. Before Arcturus, 1% to 3% of coronavirus cases were associated with pink eye, according to health experts. If left untreated, pink eye can cause corneal damage in addition to irritation and itching. Health officials advise those in close proximity to a person with pink eye to frequently cleanse their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They also recommend not sharing pillows, towels, makeup, or spectacles that have been used by a person with pink eye.
People with pink eye who wear contact lenses should consult their ophthalmologist about cleaning, storing, and replacing their lenses. Additionally, they should discard any contact lenses, solutions, and cases they used while infected with pink eye. The same is true for eye and face cosmetics, as well as brushes and sponges.
In an interview, Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, stated, “When we hear messages like ‘The pandemic is over’ or ‘COVID-19 is now endemic,’ it gives the impression that people no longer need to be aware of its impact or take precautions to protect themselves and others.” In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, health professionals continue to recommend vaccination, mask use, excellent hand hygiene, and social isolation.
Arcturus has also been discovered in over 20 countries and has begun to replace older coronavirus strains in India. Although initial reports from India and other countries indicate that Arcturus does not send proportionally more people to the hospital, it is causing an increase in cases.
Experts in the field of health caution that the subvariant may pose a greater danger to vulnerable individuals and emphasize the necessity of protective measures.