The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) says it is monitoring the new EG.5 and BA.2.86 subvariants of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The NCDC also said the subvariants have not yet been identified in Nigeria.
The NCDC made this known in a press statement issued on Saturday and signed by its Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa.
On August 9, 2023, the World Health Organisation designated EG.5, a descendant lineage of XBB.1.9.2, and its sub-lineages as a variant of interest.
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The EG.5 is a sublineage of the omicron variant and has been detected in 51 countries, including China, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, and Spain.
The risk assessment conducted by the WHO shows that the EG.5 variant poses a low risk at the global level.
“In addition, EG.5 has not been associated with any change in symptoms or a clinical manifestation and has not produced an increase in severity of illness and, or hospitalisations or difference in death rates in reporting countries.
“EG.5 causes symptoms like those seen with other COVID-19 variants, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and sore throat. So far, only one case of EG.5 has been seen in Africa, it has not been identified in Nigeria,” the statement read in part.
The National Public Health Institute also said the recently discovered BA.2.86 is a descendent lineage of BA.2 – a sublineage of Omicron, also found in Nigeria in 2022.
WHO designated the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 as a ‘variant under monitoring’ due to the large number of mutations it carries.
The BA.2.86 variant has been reported in a handful of countries – the United Kingdom, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, and the United States.
“Since there are few cases identified so far, there is not enough information to make conclusive assessments of virulence, transmission, and severity. However, we do not expect it to be much different from other omicron descendants currently circulating. Although the ancestor, BA.2 has been previously found in Nigeria, no BA.2.86 variant has been identified in Nigeria,” the agency added.
It said the NCDC’s COVID-19 Technical Working Group is closely monitoring COVID-19 epidemiology – local, regional, continental, and global – including emerging variants.
“Our influenza sentinel surveillance sites continue to provide information on COVID-19 prevalence in patients with influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness. We have not observed any increase in the trend of COVID-19 in this patient group.
“We continue to carry out genomics surveillance even with the low testing levels and encourage testing locations in states to ensure their positive samples are sent on to the NCDC for sequencing.
“Unrelated to the news of these emerging variants, the NCDC and partners are working on implementing an enhanced COVID-19 testing exercise in four states to obtain complementary and more detailed information about circulating variants in the country. In addition, COVID-19 rapid diagnostic kits are being distributed for the purpose of improving bi-directional COVID-19 testing,” it said.
The NCDC added that there is no need to cause unnecessary anxiety and panic.
“As we have consistently advised, COVID-19 is here to stay, and is now mainly a problem for those at high risk – the elderly, those with underlying chronic illnesses, especially hypertension, diabetes, those on cancer treatment, organ transplant recipients, and those whose immune systems are suppressed for one reason or the other,” it noted.
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