New Covid strain kills five Brits sparking fears highly-infectious Arcturus could trigger fresh wave

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The new strain of Covid-19, Arcturus, has already killed five Brits and is thought to be the most infectious to date

Arcturus, the new highly-infectious Covid strain, has claimed the lives of five Brits sparking fears it could trigger a new wave. It is understood it now makes up one in 40 new cases.

The subvariant of Omicron, known scientifically as XBB.1.16, has been found in 34 countries. Almost two thirds of all recorded cases of the subvariant are accounted for in India since it was first recorded in the country in January.

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The worst-affected areas in the country have already brought back mandatory face masks to control the spread. The strain first hit Britain in mid-February.

Dr William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine, health policy, and professor, Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, previously said the additional mutation in the spike protein makes Arcturus “even more contagious than Omicron”. However, he also noted that its symptoms do not tend to be particularly severe.

Speaking to Healthline, he said: “It has a tendency to produce a high fever. Omicron can produce a fever, but many people get infected who don’t have a fever at all. The cause for the fever in the Arcturus variant is because of an inflammatory response in the body, which is distinctive in this variant.

Arcturus Covid variant UK cases

In terms of the UK outbreak, 135 cases have been identified across the country by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chiefs. The subvariant is thought to be the most infectious to date – with only the North East yet to be affected by the strain.

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While there is a rise in Covid cases, it is still below the 2021 wave from the Delta variant. However, the new strain has caused five deaths in the UK so far.

The case toll will be undercounted as only a fraction of samples are tested thoroughly. The new strain makes up 2.3 per cent of all new cases.

Is Arcturus more severe

UKHSA officials stated that while Arcturus is among the “most competitive” Covid strains in the UK, the sample numbers are very low. “XBB.1.16 sample numbers are very low, and results may change as further data becomes available,” they said.

Leading experts also insist there is no proof the strain is more severe than others. The strain has reached 34 countries so far including the US, Singapore, Australia and Canada.

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Arcturus Covid symptoms

According to CDC officials, potential symptoms of Arcturus include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Itchy conjunctivitis
  • Body chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion/ runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath/ difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell

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