There is no cause for alarm over any new COVID-19 subvariants, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has assured Nigerians.
Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said this in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday.
The agency said it is monitoring the new subvariants (descendants) of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, named EG.5 and BA.2.86.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) is a strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The EG.5 variant is a descendant of XBB.1.9.2, which is itself a descendant of Omicron.
According to NCDC, the EG.5 has been reported in 51 countries as of August 7, including China, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Spain etc.
The NCDC said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified EG.5 as a “variant of interest” (VOI) and conducted a risk assessment which found this new variant poses a low risk at the global level.
“In addition, EG.5 has not been associated with any change in symptoms/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 agency said.
The NCDC added, “The recently discovered/reported BA.2.86 is a descendent lineage of BA.2 (a sublineage of Omicron, also found in Nigeria in 2022). As of August 23, 2023, the BA.2.86 variant had been reported in a handful of countries – the United Kingdom, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, and the United States.
“It has been classified by the WHO as a “variant under monitoring” (VUM) because it has multiple genetic differences that make it substantially different its ancestor, BA.2 and from other currently circulating XBB-derived SARS-CoV-2 variants.
“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 NCDC said its COVID-19 Technical Working Group (COVID-19 TWG) 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 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,” the agency said.
It urged Nigerians including media practitioners to act responsibly and share only verified information.
“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,” the NCDC said.