First Omicron cases discovered in southeast Nebraska

NEBRASKA (KOLN) – Six cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were reported in southeast Nebraska on Friday.

Public Health Solutions, which covers Gage, Jefferson, Filmore, Saline, and Thayer counties, announced the six cases in the district are tied to a Nebraskan who traveled to Nigeria in November.

The traveler flew back to the United States on Nov. 23 and showed symptoms on Nov. 24.

Public Health Solutions said the additional five cases were likely exposed through household contact by the traveler.

Of the six exposed, only one was fully vaccinated. None of the cases have required hospitalization.

“At this time it is too premature to say that this is a mild case because every individual may be reacting differently to this virus,” said Dr. Josue Gutierrez, Medical Director of Saline Medical Specialties. “So, with so little people infected we need more data, I cannot just say it’s going to be mild.”

There has been speculation worldwide of the severity of the variant. In South Africa, Anne von Gottberg, professor at South Africa National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said early reports indicate the disease may be less severe, but more transmissible.

“It’s the susceptibility of the population that is greater now,” von Gottberg said. “Because previous infection used to protect against Delta, and now with Omicron it doesn’t seem to be the case.”

In Nebraska, doctors are hesitant to say if the variant is mild, but vaccines can make infections less severe.

“We still don’t know a lot about this virus and every time something new comes on a lot of things can be put in the media that scare people at times, but this is not one of those cases,” Gutierrez said. “We are still studying a lot of these things and we will let everyone know as soon as we can what we know about this.”

The Public Health Solutions District noted none of the six cases in their district reported a loss of taste or smell.

Officials urge people to get vaccinations, booster shots, and to continue to social distance and wear a mask.

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