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Health officials warn irritating symptoms may be returning with the latest COVID strain

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A bothersome symptom may be returning as a result of a new coronavirus subvariant that is beginning to spread in the United States, according to medical professionals.

The omicron-related XBB.1.16 subvariant, also known as Arcturus by others, was found to be present in around 10% of all COVID cases reported last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization designated XBB.1.16 as a variation of interest in mid-April after initially being detected in January, according to The Hill.

Conjunctivitis is a bothersome symptom that this omicron sub-strain of COVID-19 may bring on, according to a public health alert from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Early in the epidemic, health authorities stated that pink eye, commonly known as conjunctivitis, may have been connected to COVID. Additionally, last year, experts cautioned that the then-new omicron variant and itchy, irritated eyes might be related.

The number of conjunctivitis cases nationally is now increasing, according to certain health professionals. This includes the county of Los Angeles, where the health authority has issued a warning that pink eye may be the newest COVID symptom.

Jacob King/Pool via REUTERS

In addition to more typical COVID symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, observational evidence shows that persons infected with XBB.1.16 may be more likely to have conjunctivitis as a symptom of their COVID infection. Conjunctivitis was previously documented in 1 to 3% of COVID-19 patients.

Optometrist Dr. Melanie Dombrowski explains to Nexstar’s WGHP that conjunctivitis happens when the lining that covers your eyelid and eyeball, the conjunctiva, gets irritated. According to the CDC, symptoms include pinking or reddening of the eyes, increased tear production, discharge from the eyes, and stinging, irritation, or burning.

With respiratory illnesses like the cold and flu, pink eye is often seen. The government said that it is “too early to know with certainty” whether XBB.1.16 is indeed linked to a greater incidence of conjunctivitis due to the little data that is currently available.

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“Residents should be aware that itchy, watery, or red eyes may be a sign of a COVID-19 infection and these symptoms should not be simply dismissed as the result of pollen or seasonal allergies, especially if someone more vulnerable to severe illness could be exposed,” the Health Department said. “The fact that we are seeing new strains with potentially novel and distinct symptoms tells us that COVID is still evolving, and the way we think about our defenses should reflect what we know.”

According to the CDC, if you have pink eye and have eye discomfort, sensitivity to light, impaired vision, extreme redness, symptoms that don’t go better or become worse, or if your immune system is compromised, you should see a doctor.

Older folks and those with underlying medical issues are urged to take additional care to ward against infection, including regular hand washing, up-to-date immunizations, and staying in while ill.

Despite the fact that authorities claim Arcturus may be more adept at evading immune response than other subvariants, it doesn’t seem to be any more harmful.

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