There is a new coronavirus variant going around, experts say.
While we know scientifically that new strains are inevitable as the virus continues to evolve and mutate, most people have reached a saturation point and simply don’t want to talk or think about the topic any longer. That feeling is understandable, but it doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Recently, the CDC has added a new strand to the equation, which is being called “Arcturus.” Formally, the new strand is known as XBB.1.16. While the path of the virus as it moves through the population has proven very difficult to predict, it’s possible that this new strain will become the dominant variant in the months ahead.
With the memories fresh from a time when one new strand after the next caused widespread concern and even panic, it might seem surprising that newer variants are now barely making the news – and we might not hear about them at all. What changed?
The primary difference between where we were in the pandemic and where we are today is the level of protection enjoyed by the general population. Most people have been exposed to the virus, or have received a vaccine, or both. So, if they contract the virus through the course of day-to-day life, it won’t be the first time their body has dealt with it. That means illness tends to be far less severe than it would have been the first or second time around.
So, someone who picks up the new Arcturus strain of the COVID-19 virus may still feel sick, but they aren’t likely to get as sick as they would have in the past. It’s still a good idea to take measures to avoid picking up this or any other virus, but when it happens, the impact should be less significant. It’s important to practice all of the same precautions, of course, including proper hand washing and social distancing when possible. It’s also important to quarantine should a person receive a positive COVID test in order to avoid spreading the virus to others, especially those who may not be vaccinated or who are otherwise vulnerable.
As is always the case with new virus strains, it takes a while before we can make any confident statements regarding the status of the variant and what it is likely to do to those who become sick. So far, it has been primarily found in India, and it does not seem to be triggering any notable increase in illness severity as compared to previous variants.
Most people are well past the game of trying to guess what a COVID-19 variant is going to do next. There have been too many surprises and unexpected turns in this odyssey over the past few years to do much more than sit back and watch how it unfolds. Such will be the case with Arcturus, as we’ll just have to wait and see how much of an impact it makes on the global health landscape. With any luck, it will continue the trend of variants getting gradually milder and presenting with less severe symptoms and fewer lasting effects than previous versions.