STROUD TOWNSHIP, PA — A new COVID-19 omicron strain referred to as Arcturus is causing doctors and nurses at St. Luke's University Health Network in Monroe County to exercise extreme caution, as it can cause conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye.
"We certainly are seeing more in the way of conjunctivitis. Most of our physicians in our emergency rooms are seeing that because allergies alone would account for that, but I think there's a general lack of knowledge that COVID is actually causing this in a lot of cases," said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, the senior vice president of medical and academic affairs at St. Luke's.
He says this new strain is more contagious and much more common in children and it's often being mistaken for seasonal allergies.
"We're in the midst of a really terrible allergy season and allergies are commonly associated with pink eye or redness of the eye," Dr. Jahre said.
So how can you tell if you have COVID or pink eye?
"If you have a fever with the pink eye, then it's quite possible that you have this strain of COVID," Jahre said. "Secondly, if there's someone else in the family who has COVID, then you develop pink eye, it's much more likely that you have COVID that's causing that pink eye."
As for treatment, Dr. Jahre says the pink eye will go away within seven days.
"Rather than trying to diagnose it yourself, if you develop pink eye, it really may be time for you to see an eye doctor," Dr. Jahre said. "To be certain that what you have doesn't need much more treatment like some types of conjunctivitis do."
Dr. Jahre says getting the vaccine and washing your hands are the best ways to help prevent getting sick.
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