Health officials ask public to be calm after Omicron variant found in Nebraska
Health director: "We just don't want a rampant concern that people are going to think that this is widespread in the community."
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Health officials are asking the public to remain calm after the first cases of the Omicron variant were detected in southeast Nebraska.
“We just don’t want a rampant concern that people are going to think that this is widespread in the community,” Public Health Solutions health director Kim Showalter said. “At this point, it’s not.”
Public Health Solutions, which covers Fillmore, Gage, Saline, Thayer, and Jefferson counties, revealed that six people in the health district were found to have the variant after one of them returned from Nigeria.
“The first case that we identified was likely exposed during international travel to Nigeria,” Showalter said. “This person left Nigeria and flew back to the United States on November 23. On November 24, the individual began to show symptoms and sought out testing.”
The other five cases are likely to have been exposed to the first case through close household contact. The health district believes the variant has been contained to the six individuals, who have been in isolation after the exposure.
“We don’t foresee that there’s going to be a large amount of close contacts that anyone needs to be concerned about,” Showalter said.
According to Public Health Solutions, one of the six people who tested positive for the variant was fully vaccinated, but not yet eligible to be boosted.
The other five individuals, including the traveler, were not vaccinated. All six cases are described as being mild to moderate.
While the news may come as a shock, health officials say it’s important to remain calm and practice the same safety measures that have been practiced in the state since the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s a perfect time to get the vaccines for everyone, even the boosters, as well as continue doing the masking, continue the social distancing,” PHS medical director Josue Gutierrez said. “We don’t want to have anyone get too scared about this, we still don’t know a lot about this virus.”