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A new strain of coronavirus has come to town, and it’s one that behaves a little differently than its preceding variants thanks to its tendency to give people pink eye.

We’re here to tell you all about the Arcturus strain, how to keep yourself safe from it and ways to relieve symptoms if you catch it.

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What is Arcturus?

XBB1.1.16, or "Arcturus," is a strain of COVID-19's omicron variant. First reported in January, the strain has rapidly spread in nations such as India and Indonesia. While Arcturus is similar to other variants, it does differ in a few key ways.

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Arcturus COVID-19 symptoms

According to infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner, Arcturus is associated with more fevers than previous strains. Its more distinctive trait, however, is its tendency to produce conjunctivitis, particularly when it infects children. Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as "pink eye," can cause mild-to-severe eye irritation, cloudy vision and even discharge from the eye. Visually, it causes the sclera (the white of your eye) to appear pinkish-reddish, hence the common name.

If you need a refresher on the general symptoms of COVID-19, they are:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How common is Arcturus?

As of April 22, Arcturus represents 9.6% of new cases in America or 1 out of 10 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

How contagious is Arcturus?

According to experts such as infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner, Arcturus is highly transmissible due to mutations in its spike protein.

Is Arcturus treatable?

Arcturus seems to respond well to the existing vaccines that treat omicron, as it's a strain of that particular variant. In terms of treatment, like other forms of coronavirus, your best bet is to treat the symptoms, though you may have to contend with the symptoms of pink eye with Arcturus. Consult your medical provider if your symptoms are concerning or to figure out the best plan for treating your symptoms.

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How to protect yourself from Arcturus

A mask

Airborne particles from infected individuals are the most common source of transmission for all known COVID-19 variants. Thus, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to use a KN95 or N95 mask, named such because they block 95% of particulates, including those responsible for the spread of airborne diseases. As a bonus, they can also block out pollen, which may help minimize the effects of seasonal allergies this time of year.

$20 from Project N95

$6 from Amazon

Hand sanitizer

While COVID-19 spreads predominantly through airborne particles, it can also spread by touching surfaces coated with infected droplets and then touching one's face. As such, it's recommended to wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.

$12 from Amazon

Disinfectant spray or wipes

Another way to avoid COVID-19 on dirty surfaces is by cleaning the surface itself. One way to do this is by using a disinfectant wipe or spray, both of which are effective in killing the coronavirus.

$6 from Amazon

$17 from Amazon

An at-home COVID-19 test 

It can be hard to tell if you have COVID-19 or something else. With this new, pink eye-giving variant coming during a season when pink eye is typically more common because of seasonal allergies, it's even harder to figure out what you have. To take the guesswork out, we recommend using a take-home test to see where you stand.

$20 from Walmart

$24 from CVS

A thermometer

With this variant causing more fevers than others, it's a good idea to have a thermometer on hand as another way to figure out if you have COVID-19 or not. One of the best thermometers you can buy is the Femometer Digital Infrared Thermometer thanks to its features such as silent mode and a high-temperature warning.

$16 from Amazon

A washcloth

One remedy for the symptoms of pink eye, including eye pain and swelling, is to apply a moist washcloth to the affected eye. If you need a new washcloth (or a new bath set entirely), we recommend the washcloth that comes with our favorite bath towel. Parachute Classic's cotton towels are both comfortable and absorbent, the perfect combination for when you're nursing a hurting eye.

$14 from Parachute

Eye drops

Eye drops are another way to relieve the symptoms of pink eye. Some of the best-rated eye drops for this purpose on Amazon are Similasan's pink eye relief eye drops. They have over 4,500 five-star ratings on Amazon, with buyers attesting to their effectiveness at clearing up pink eye and relieving its pain.

$7 from Amazon

A water bottle

No matter what sickness you're afflicted with, one of the best ways to help your body get over it is by making sure you're well-hydrated. To that end, you should make sure you have a quality water bottle on hand such as our favorite, the Brita BB11 Premium Filtering Water Bottle, which keeps water cool for up to 24 hours and filters out odors and taste.

$30 from Amazon

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