NCDC, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that it is keeping an eye on the new subvariants (descendants) of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, known as EG.5 and BA.2.86.
The COVID-19 Technical Working Group (COVID-19 TWG) of the NCDC is also keeping an eye on the global, continental, local, and emergent variants of COVID-19 epidemiology.
The EG.5 variation is related to XBB.1.9.2, which is related to Omicron. As of the 7th of August 2023, reports of the EG.5 virus were made in 51 nations, including China, the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, and Spain.
The NCDC’s influenza sentinel surveillance sites have continued to provide information on COVID-19 prevalence in patients with influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory illness, stressing that the center has not noticed any increase in the trend of COVID-19 in this patient group. Yesterday in Abuja, the Director General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa released an official statement on the new COVID-19 Subvariants.
He stated that EG.5 has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of interest” (VOI) and that a risk assessment revealed that this new variant poses a low risk globally. He also added that EG.5 has not been linked to any changes in symptoms or clinical manifestations, nor has it led to an increase in the severity of illness and/or hospitalizations, nor has it resulted in a difference in death rates in reporting countries.
He claims that “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, “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”.
Adetifa stated that NCDC will continue to keep an eye on events around the world, particularly in nations where the new variant has been confirmed, and inform Nigerians as necessary about any modifications to SARS-COV-2 epidemiology and genomics that may endanger public health.
He stated: “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”.
“We urge fellow citizens 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”, he added.