The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is warning residents that the newest Omicron strain of COVID-19 may come with some new symptoms.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the new variant, a strain called XBB.1.16 and known as “Arcturus,” currently accounts for 8% of COVID-19 cases in California and 10% nationwide.
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pink eye,” is the newest possible symptom of this variant of the Coronavirus. So far, the L.A. County Health Department has confirmed three reported cases of the new strain.
“Observational data suggests that people infected with XBB.1.16 may be more likely to experience conjunctivitis as a symptom of their COVID infection, along with more traditional COVID symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath,” the Health Department said in a statement. “Historically, conjunctivitis was reported in 1 to 3% of COVID-19 cases.”
However, with the limited data available, the Department of Public Health says that it is “too early to know with certainty” if XBB.1.16 is truly associated with higher rates of conjunctivitis.
“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 a 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 possibly new and different symptoms, tells us that COVID continues to evolve and the way we think about our protections should reflect what we know.”
Older adults and individuals with underlying health conditions are encouraged to take extra precautions to avoid infection, which include staying up to date on vaccinations, frequent hand washing and staying home when feeling sick.
Free at-home COVID-19 tests can be picked up at libraries and community sites across L.A. County and at Public Health vaccination sites. They can also be ordered through the federal government.
Residents may also call the Public Health COVID-19 Call Center at 1-833-540-0473.
For more information and to view COVID-19 statistics, click here.