A message shared on WhatsApp in Nigeria claims the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is already circulating in the country.
The WhatsApp message warns people “not to be complacent simply because they have gotten a double dose of the vaccine”.
It continues: “The nasty Omicron variant attacks the HEARTS of vaccinated people. Obese people are also at higher risk. Please tell them to continue the use of face masks.”
Is it true that this new variant of Covid-19 attacks the hearts of vaccinated people?
Nigeria records first case of Omicron variant
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the country’s national public health institute, charged with leading the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.
In a press statement on 30 November, the agency said it had confirmed Nigeria’s first cases of the Omicron variant.
“Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with a history of travel to South Africa. These cases were recent arrivals in the country in the past week. To ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing, and other relevant response activities have commenced,” read the statement.
No evidence variant attacks the hearts of vaccinated people
Dr Oluwatosin Wuraola Akande, a public health doctor, told Africa Check the Omicron variant is a new variant and that scientists are still trying to understand the epidemiological dynamics.
“What we know is that it is a variant of concern, [and] it has a number of mutations that may be worrying. There is no scientific proof that this variant specifically attacks the heart of vaccinated people,” she said.
According to the WHO, researchers in South Africa and worldwide are conducting studies to understand many aspects of the Omicron variant.
“There is also no scientific proof obese people are at risk,” Akande said.
“Interrupting transmission of the virus remains our best defense against this virus and path to returning to normalcy. We can only achieve this through vaccination and adherence to the proven safety measures such as wearing face masks, regular hand washing and physical distancing,” said the Nigerian CDC in its recommendation to the public.