Indonesia has reported the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant called XBB 1.16 or Arcturus, which is said to be causing a resurgence of cases in the country. This new strain is reportedly causing symptoms that affect the eyes. Specifically, infected individuals are said to experience red eyes.
However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), red eyes are not a new symptom of Covid-19. Reports of itchy and painful eyes have been observed since the beginning of the pandemic.
“This is not a new symptom, but it may be more frequently observed now,” said Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, as quoted by NBC News on May 3, 2023.
The emergence of this new variant has also raised questions about the effectiveness of current vaccines. Chin-Hong, however, is not too worried about the vaccines.
This is because Arcturus is similar to the previous variant, XBB 1.5, which means that existing vaccines may still be effective against it.
“Because it is very similar to XBB 1.5, we believe the vaccine will still be effective,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, stated that it is still too early to determine how effective current vaccines are against XBB 1.16.
Arcturus has been found in several countries and has caused an increase in Covid-19 cases, including in Indonesia and the United States.
The WHO has classified Arcturus as a variant of interest as it continues to spread and outcompete other variants.
It is still too early to predict the impact of XBB 1.16 in the future, according to Mokdad. However, he is confident that there is nothing to be worried about regarding this new variant.
“We have not seen an increase in hospitalizations, nor have we seen any indicators that make us worried,” he said.
As of April 29, 2023, daily cases in Indonesia have reportedly increased by 2,074 individuals, which is the highest number in the last 10 months. The Ministry of Health attributes this increase to the rising positivity rate of 14.76%. The Bed Occupancy Ratio (BOR) also increased to 7.47%.
Deaths have also increased since the beginning of April 2023, with the most significant increase recorded on April 28, 2023, with 37 deaths. The number of deaths decreased to 14 on April 29, 2023. The situation is being closely monitored by health authorities as they work to prevent the spread of the new variant and control the situation.