COVID variant exhibits allergy-like symptoms, experts say

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Is it COVID, or allergies? Turns out newer variants of the COVID-19 virus feel a lot like allergies. One of the common symptoms of the newest X.B.B.1.16 COVID variant, “Arcturus,” is itchy red eyes, commonly known as pink eye.

As COVID-19 symptoms continue to change with new variants emerging, a new variant named “Arcturus” has some unique symptoms. Runny noses and itchy throats are symptoms that people no longer easily dismiss as a common cold. Instead, they go and get tested for COVID.

Doctors now believe that pink eye, along with other symptoms, can be a new reason to take a COVID test.

“It’s exactly allergy season, and I already have patients coming into my office complaining of itchy eyes, tearing, a little bit of redness, congestion,” said Dr. Peter Gulick. “A lot of the symptoms that you would think are allergies may indeed be this new variant.”

Gulick, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University, said the best and easiest way to prevent getting COVID is to get vaccinated.

Despite its high transmission rate, he said now is not the beginning of the pandemic.

“Fortunately, it’s summertime, so many events are outdoors. Good ventilation is going to be critical,” Gulick said. “Even if you’re outdoors, if you’re in close contact with someone who may have it and they’re coughing, there’s a chance you may develop it.”

Although other variants are responsible for the majority of COVID cases currently, the CDC reports that Arcturus cases are doubling every week.

“The main concern is if you start seeing patients getting admitted to the hospital again, then we’re dealing with a much different type of COVID, where the variants of the virus are becoming an issue,” Gulick said. “People are not only dealing with upper respiratory problems, but they’re getting sicker to the point where they have to go back to the hospital. That’s the fear that could happen with any of these variants.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that this new variant is responsible for over 15% of cases in America. Doctors advise taking the usual COVID precautions and avoiding contact with people who have pink eye.

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