Another new variant of COVID-19 has emerged in Nigeria

It's not yet known if the outbreak of the new, more-contagious strain in Africa could be related to the newer U.K. version.

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A new strain of the novel coronavirus has emerged in Nigeria, according to the head of Africa’s disease control body. 

John Nkengasong, Africa’s director of Centers for Disease Control, said Thursday the strain in Nigeria is different from both the American and the new United Kingdom versions. 

In this October photo, a London protester wears a Nigeria hat during a demonstration calling for the end of Nigerian police violence against the public. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Nkengasong did not confirm whether the outbreak of the new, more-contagious strain on the continent could be related to the newer strain in the U.K.

Nigeria — the most populous country in Africa, with over than 200 million residents — has reported a 52-percent increase in coronavirus cases in the past week, and positive-case numbers have increased by 40 percent in South Africa. 

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The Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases plan to conduct more studies on the new strain. 

“Give us some time,” Nkengasong said, addressing a virtual news conference from Addis Ababa. “It’s still very early.”

“Over recent weeks, we’ve had a huge increase in number of samples to (the Nigerian CDC’s) reference lab,” the Nigeria CDC’s director-general Chikwe Ihekweazu tweeted Thursday.

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“While we continue our public health response to the #COVID19 pandemic, in Nigeria, we have also begun the largest Lassa fever epidemiological study in history. We’re deepening our knowledge of the burden of disease & contributing to @CEPIvaccines efforts for a #Lassafever vaccine,” Ihekweazu shared. 

Africa, as a continent, has seen a remarkably low number of cases of COVID-19. Africa makes up only 3.3 percent of global cases. The United States of America has less than 4 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of COVID-19 diagnoses. 

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The new variant of the virus is now the predominant one in South Africa; however, it does not appear to lead to a more severe case of the disease. Further, vaccine manufacturers note that vaccines should also be effective against the new strain. 

The increase of cases on the continent is happening most aggressively in South Africa, where new positive diagnoses are expected to surpass the previous spring peak in the coming days. 

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