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Arcturus (XBB.1.16) Cause of Pink Eye in Over 40% of Infants, in New Study/Big Increase in Herpes After COVID. New Study Followed over 2 Million People for One Year.
Is Immune Dysfunction the Reason for Increase?
Two new studies have brought to light concerning issues surrounding COVID-19. The first study, posted on April 20, 2023, reports a significant increase in the number of infants with pink eye symptoms due to the XBB.1.16 variant in India. We have been reporting on this but this adds more insight into the current situation. The study finds that over 40% of the infants had pink eye symptoms. This is a large increase but might not be representative of how it will be everywhere. It is important to watch out for this new symptom being reported in infants, children and adults. Infants appear to be getting more respiratory symptoms as well, along with high fevers.
Meanwhile, a second study, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, has found that there has been a significant increase in herpes zoster (HZ) incidence among individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. This is likely due to the immune dysfunction. We are seeing an increase in bacterial and fungal infections as well. COVID weakens the immune system for weeks in some people and up to at least eight months in others, as we have reported numerous times. These two studies add more insight into the overall situation, highlighting the need to understand the new symptoms associated with COVID-19 and the immune dysfunction it causes.
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India is currently experiencing an increase in Covid-19 cases as a result of the XBB.1.16 variant, nicknamed Arcturus, which is significantly more aggressive and immune evasive than other Omicron sub-lineages. In late January, XBB.1.16 (“Arcturus”) an XBB.1 offspring emerged in India and outcompeted all other variants by end of March 2023. A big surge is currently underway, with test positivity touching 6.78% and crossing even 30% in some states like Delhi. With its rapid spread to more than 37 countries, and at least 30 U.S. states. The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 22, 2023, dubbed it as the ‘variant under monitoring’ and on April 20, 2023, they upgraded it to a ‘Variant of Interest’. It is now the second VOI along with XBB.1.5.
Pink Eye and Respiratory Symptoms in Infants
In a study posted April 20, 2023, researchers explain the important changes in the symptoms of infants infected with COVID visiting an outdoor department of a pediatric hospital in a north Indian city in a preliminary investigation.
The current ongoing XBB.1.16 driven surge of Covid-19 is causing mild febrile illness in children in India
Young infants are disproportionately more affected than older children.
Unlike the previous BA.2 Omicron wave, respiratory symptoms are predominating the clinical presentation in young infants in the ongoing surge.
Conjunctival involvement is seen in 42.8% of affected infants.
The study discovered that the current XBB.1.16-driven increase in Covid-19 more frequently impacted young infants, and mild febrile illness predominated over other presentations. Some common symptoms of febrile illness include fever, chills, sweating, body aches, headache, fatigue, and dehydration. The severity and duration of febrile illness can vary depending on the individual's immune system response to the infection. Treatment for febrile illness usually involves managing the symptoms, getting plenty of rest and fluids.
Unlike the older Omicron waves , respiratory symptoms, including bronchitis was more prevalent in the current surge's clinical presentation in young babies.
The most surprising finding was that 42.8% of positive newborns had itchy, non-purulent conjunctivitis with mucoid discharge and stickiness of the eyelids. "Mucoid" refers to a substance that is similar in appearance or consistency to mucus, which is a slimy and sticky substance produced by the mucous membranes in the body. So, when something is described as "mucoid discharge," it means that the discharge has a slimy or sticky texture that resembles mucus. The good news is that all of the children recuperated with symptomatic treatment and did not require hospitalization.
The study also discovered that parents were hesitant to allow their children to be tested for SARS-CoV-2. The study's weakness was that only symptomatic children were evaluated.
This study gives critical preliminary information about the clinical features of pediatric Covid-19 patients in north India during the ongoing Omicron XBB.1.16 outbreak. The conclusion points out that COVID continues to evolve at a rapid pace and that it requires close monitoring. It doesn't point out, but TACT will, that the location of the mutations occurring most recently are very concerning. The current XBB.1.16-driven surge of Covid-19 is causing mild illness in most children, but we can’t easily see the long term damage to the immune system or the chronic health conditions that often follow from persistent infections. The virus is changing quickly. We will be keeping a close eye on how it's changing, including how easily it spreads, how much it avoids the immune system, and how well it responds to vaccines and anti-viral medicines. The scientific community and everyone reading should do the same. This will help us make better plans and advocate for the measures and research necessary to fight the disease. This studies findings can help doctors, public health experts, and parents identify the new symptoms and manage the disease more quickly.
Reference: Preliminary clinical characteristics of Pediatric Covid-19 cases during the ongoing Omicron XBB.1.16 driven surge in a north Indian city, Vipin M Vashishtha et al (2023, April 20). medRxiv, available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.04.18.23288715v1.full
Increased Risk of Herpes Zoster Within 1 Year of COVID-19: A Retrospective Cohort Study
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, there has been a significant rise in the incidence of herpes zoster (HZ) among individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. The study assessed the risk of HZ in patients following a COVID-19 diagnosis and found that those who had COVID-19 had a higher risk of developing HZ compared to those who did not have COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, age, or sex.
The study was based on a retrospective cohort of over 2.4 million patients and found that the risk of HZ was 1.59 times higher in patients with COVID-19 compared to those without COVID-19. Moreover, patients with COVID-19 had a higher risk of various subtypes of HZ, including ophthalmicus, disseminated zoster, zoster with other complications, and zoster without complications.
The study suggests that immune dysfunction caused by COVID-19 is likely the reason behind the increased risk of HZ. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully monitor the occurrence of HZ among COVID-19 patients, and the HZ vaccine could potentially benefit these individuals.
In summary, this study reveals a clear increase in the incidence of HZ among COVID-19 patients, highlighting the importance of understanding the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on the immune system.
Chen, Y. C., Ho, C. H., Liu, T. H., Wu, J. Y., Huang, P. Y., Tsai, Y. W., & Lai, C. C. (2023). Long-term risk of herpes zoster following COVID-19: A retrospective cohort study of 2,442,686 patients. Journal of Medical Virology, 95(5), 1035-1042. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.28745
The media and public health officials may have us believe that COVID is no longer a risk to our health and safety, but they are ignoring the vast number of risks associated with each new infection. Furthermore, they are overlooking the millions of people who already suffer from persistent infections and the horrible, often debilitating symptoms associated with Long COVID. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and media coverage has nearly vanished. Therefore, independent sources that keep up-to-date with the latest science and data are more important than ever.
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