COVID-19: NCDC Vigilant As New Variant Spreads To 51 Countries

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Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) says it has stepped up vigilance as two new subvariants of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, named EG.5 and BA.2.86.

The NCDC revealed on its website that the EG.5 variant has spread to 51 countries, including China, the United States of America, and several other nations across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified EG.5 as a “variant of interest” (VOI), with a low-risk assessment on a global level.

Director General of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said: “We are closely tracking the emergence of the EG.5 subvariant, which has exhibited symptoms similar to other COVID-19 variants. Importantly, it has not shown any increase in severity or differences in death rates.”

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The second subvariant, BA.2.86, is a descendant lineage of BA.2, previously identified in Nigeria in 2022. Dr Adetifa emphasized that while the BA.2.86 variant has surfaced in a few countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa, there’s not yet enough information to draw definitive conclusions about its characteristics.

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“Our expert team is continuously analyzing data regarding the BA.2.86 variant. It possesses distinct genetic differences from its ancestor and other circulating variants. However, we are cautious in making conclusions due to the limited number of cases,” Dr Adetifa affirmed.

The NCDC is actively engaged in tracking COVID-19 epidemiology at local, regional, continental, and global levels, with a particular focus on emerging variants. The organisation’s influenza sentinel surveillance sites are contributing valuable insights into the prevalence of COVID-19 in patients with flu-like and severe respiratory illnesses.

Dr Adetifa urged the public to access information, saying: “We encourage media practitioners and citizens to share verified information only, to prevent unnecessary anxiety. COVID-19 remains a concern, particularly for high-risk groups, but our recommendations for protection remain consistent.”

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The NCDC Director General highlighted the ongoing importance of testing for symptoms, vaccination, maintaining good hand hygiene, and using masks when necessary. Dr Adetifa assured Nigerians that the NCDC would continue to monitor global situations and keep the public informed about any significant developments.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, as the nation’s leading public health institute, is dedicated to safeguarding the health of citizens by employing evidence-based prevention, comprehensive disease surveillance, and swift response strategies.

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