A new coronavirus strain has appeared in Nigeria, Africa’s top health official said Thursday.
John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the strain had been observed on two or three genetic sequences, which prompted an emergency meeting of officials this week, The Associated Press reported.
Nkengasong said the Nigerian strain differs from the U.K. and South Africa variants and scientists are in the early stages of learning about it.
The Nigerian strain came from two patients collected in August and October in the country’s Osun state, according to a research paper obtained by AP. Nkengasong said he doesn’t know of the severity of the strain but said it transmits quicker and has a higher viral load.
News of the strain has emerged as Africa has had a recent surge of infections. Nkengasong said Nigeria has seen a 52 percent increase in the coronavirus in the past month while cases in South Africa have increased by 40 percent.
As of Thursday, Nigeria has roughly 81,000 coronavirus cases and 1,200 related deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.