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COVID-19: Arcturus arrives in WA, joining other sub-variants in the viral melting pot

WA Health has detected its first cases of the COVID-19 mutation XBB.1.16, known as Arcturus, which has been behind a surge of cases across India.

“As at 17 April 2023, the department had received eight notifications of the XBB.1.16 sub-variant in WA for the first time,” a WA Health spokesperson said on Saturday.

The World Health Organisation said it was keeping an eye on the new COVID-19 variant, which had so far been reported in 31 countries.

“Due to its estimated growth advantage and immune escape characteristics, XBB.1.16 may spread globally and contribute to an increase in case incidence,” the WHO said.

“However, at present, there is no early signal of an increase in (disease) severity. The initial XBB.1.16 risk assessment is ongoing and is expected to be published in the coming days.”

WA Health said it continued to see changes in the variants circulating in WA.

“These changes are being closely monitored, and recently there has been an increase in the Omicron XBB sub-variants, most particularly XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.9,” the spokesperson said.

“While these sub-variants have an increased ability to transmit and escape immunity, there is no evidence to date suggesting they cause more severe disease.

“But some people, such as the elderly or those who are immunocompromised, will continue to be at higher risk.”

WA Health is concerned about people getting a double-whammy of COVID-19 and flu at the same time.

“A double infection could be more serious than having either influenza or COVID alone,” the spokesperson said.

“Transmission of respiratory viruses such as COVID or flu are likely to increase during the colder months as people tend to move indoors more to mingle.”

“A COVID vaccine booster dose is recommended if it is more than six months since your last COVID-19 vaccine or COVID-19 infection. All available COVID-19 vaccines provide protection as a booster dose. However, the bivalent COVID vaccines are preferred.

“Both influenza and COVID vaccinations are available at GPs and can also be accessed at pharmacies for adults and children over the age of five where eligible. Influenza and COVID-19 vaccines can be given on the same day.”

As of Thursday night, there were 146 people in WA hospitals with COVID-19, two more than the previous week. Two patients were in intensive care.

Authorities reported 13 new deaths this week, though some dated back to March 19.

Anyone experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms is urged to stay home and use a RAT to test for COVID-19. A positive result should be registered with WA Health.

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