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How true is claim that the new COVID-19 variant in Nigeria has shorter incubation period?

Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims the incubation period of the new variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria is between 24 to 72 hours.

The variant in Nigeria is still novel and the African and Nigerian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said more investigation is needed to understand the new variant.

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Multiple variants of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are spreading globally. In Nigeria, a new variant was reported in August and October, 2020. This subsequently led to new travel guidelines for passengers from the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa in December 2020.

As of Thursday, January 14, 2021, Nigeria recorded 1,398 new cases bringing the total number of cases to 103,999.

A viral WhatsApp message claims the incubation period of the new variant of COVID-19 is between 24-72hours. This message, which called for caution and the need to take control measures such as face mask wearing and hand washing serious, was accredited to the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria.

“The current strain of COVID-19  in Nigeria is very fatal. The incubation period is 24-72 hours rather than 4 days. The time from symptoms to death is very rapid. It is extremely contagious. It affects all ages regardless of underlying Health issues or none.”

Excerpt of viral WhatsAppessage

Screenshot of the viral WhatsApp message.


Dubawa at a glance noticed some grammatical errors in the viral WhatsApp message. First is the missing adjective “less than” in the sentence “The incubation period is 24-72 hours than 4 days” that is supposed to qualify the period of time. 

Also,  the supposed name of the organisation that the information was referenced to “Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria” could not be found after a thorough search.

Dubawa also conducted a keyword search on the new variant in Nigeria and its characteristics.

What is an Incubation Period

An Incubation period is a time between contraction and the appearance of symptoms of a viral infection.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Nigeria, incubation period means the time between catching the virus and manifestation of symptoms of the disease.  The estimated incubation period for most COVID-19 cases ranges from one to 14 days, most commonly around five days.

Screenshot of WHO Nigeria’s FAQs on incubation period.

According to a report by Annals of internal medicine, the average incubation period seems to be around 5 days. According to this report, more than 97 percent of people who contract COVID-19 show symptoms within 11.5 days of exposure.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also noted that the incubation period for COVID-19 is between 2-14days.

Screenshot of CDC site.

According to the Africa and Nigerian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so far there is no evidence that the new variant  in Nigeria is causing more severe illness or increasing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.


No evidence to support the claim that the new variant has a lesser incubation period than the normal range of 24 hours to 72 hours. While scientists are working to learn more about these variants to better understand them, there is currently no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or higher risk of death. The Africa and Nigerian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also noted the need for more investigation on this new variant.

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