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Is Pink Eye a New COVID Symptom?

  • Category: Coronavirus
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Is Pink Eye a New COVID Symptom?

Shortness of breath, cough and flu-like symptoms with loss of taste and smell were the heavy hitters for a long time during the first half of the pandemic. Then there was the Delta variant, with more reports of sore throat, runny nose and headaches as key symptoms. At the end of 2021, Omicron emerged and the usuals – fever, loss of taste and smell, achiness – were back with some new troublemakers like night sweats, sore throat and vomiting.

A new variant called Arcturus, another spin-off from Omicron, has brought on yet a different symptom – red, itchy eyes. Based on early observations from India where Arcturus originated, cases of conjunctivitis, or pink eye, have been on the rise, especially in children.

Pink eye is most often caused by a viral infection and can cause itchiness, redness and discharge. It is contagious, but easily managed so early intervention is important. To prevent spreading pink eye, don’t touch your eyes with your hands, or share towels or eye care items, and of course wash your hands often.

With allergy season in full swing in south Louisiana, you may experience symptoms similar to pink eye, like itchiness and redness, as a result of high exposure to pollen and grass. This is called allergic conjunctivitis, and often comes with sneezing and a clear, runny nose. It may just be those pesky allergies, but don’t wait to get it checked out if you think it could be something more.

Arcturus is beginning to make an impression in the U.S. and currently makes up about 14% of cases in the region that includes Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. It’s still too early to tell if pink eye will stick around as a truly new shift in symptoms, but Arcturus does have an extra mutation in the spike protein, which gives it the potential to be more transmissible.