New XBB.1.16 Omicron subvariant spreads in the US and other regions

New XBB.1.16 Omicron subvariant spreads in the US and other regions

THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has reported that the new Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, also known as “Arcturus,” is spreading in the country after driving up cases in India. This variant accounts for 7% of the new COVID-19 cases reported in the US this week.

This is the first time that the CDC has flagged separate COVID-19 cases under XBB.1.16, which was previously grouped under the XBB variant.

The Arcturus variant is considered more transmissible and immune-evasive than its predecessors, which may escape immunity acquired by previous infections or vaccines.

The Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions have also witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases due to XBB.1.16. The World Health Organization or WHO’s Southeast Asia region has reported a nearly 500% rise in cases month over month in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, and Timor-Leste. Reported cases are also trending upward in the Eastern Mediterranean region, increasing slightly more than 100% month over month.

The Arcturus variant has been identified in 29 countries so far, and cases have doubled from the last full week of March to the first partial week of April, according to the WHO’s Thursday update. The variant is a recombinant of two sub-variants, BA2.10.1 and BA.2.75, and spreads about 1.17 to 1.27 times more efficiently than its relatives XBB.1 and XBB.1.5, according to a preprint study from scientists at the University of Tokyo.

Doctors in India have noted a slight change in symptoms, especially in children and the elderly, with cases of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, without pus, but causing “sticky eye,” being reported among children in the country.

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