LA County Department of Public Health monitors new ‘Arcturus’ COVID strain
Los Angeles is pictured. The first cases of a new COVID-19 strain called XBB.1.16 have been found in Los Angeles County. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Aditi Kumar
April 28, 2023 2:31 p.m.
Los Angeles County reported its first cases of the new Arcturus strain of COVID-19, which has been associated with rising COVID-19 cases in India.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict Arcturus, formally known as XBB.1.16, accounts for almost 10% of COVID-19 cases currently in the United States. The proportion of XBB.1.16 cases in the U.S. weekly has been increasing since the week of March 11. In a western region of the United States that includes California, the CDC projects that XBB 1.16 now accounts for over 7% of cases.
Doctors have observed that this new strain seems to infect children at a higher rate compared to other COVID-19 strains, said Barbara Ferrer, the LA County Department of Public Health director, in a media briefing.
Ferrer said the new strain accounted for about 1.3% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in LA County as of April 20. There have been increasing reports of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, related to Arcturus, she said, adding that it was previously a rare symptom in COVID-19 cases. Currently, there is not enough information to determine if XBB.1.16 is directly associated with higher infection rates of pink eye in children, Ferrer added.
As all the new strains are descendants of the Omicron strain, Ferrer said currently available vaccines and therapeutics are likely to remain effective in preventing serious illness due to XBB.1.16. She said the department will continue to monitor data related to the new strains of COVID-19.
“We’re not seeing any large shifts or signals that new strains have begun outcompeting other strains,” Ferrer said. “Although based on past history, we can anticipate the possibility that one of the new circulating strains can become dominant.”