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At least six US states have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, with Nebraska the latest to confirm a batch of infections of the new strain.

Since California on December 1 confirmed the first reported case of Omicron in the US, the variant has been detected in Minnesota, New York, Colorado and Hawaii, Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday.

That list excluded Nebraska, which revealed after the White House coronavirus task force briefing Walensky spoke at that it had detected its first cases of Omicron.

The state’s health department has identified six cases of the strain. The first case was tied to an individual who was “likely exposed during international travel to Nigeria”. They returned to the US on November 23 and became symptomatic a day later. The other five cases were “likely exposed through household contact”.

Only one of the six individuals was vaccinated, but none have required hospitalisation, Nebraska’s health department said.

Health officials in other states have variously described their Omicron cases as having “minor”, “mild” or “moderate” symptoms.

With the spread of Omicron in the US at, potentially, an early stage, Dr Anthony Fauci said the necessary clinical data used to help determine the threat posed by the variant would take time to collect. “We expect we’re going to have that information to you over the next few weeks,” he said on Friday.

The US has averaged about 86,400 new Covid-19 infections a day over the past week, Walensky said. That is about on par with a week ago, but represents an increase of more than 20 per cent over the past month. Over the past week, the level of coronavirus hospitalisations has averaged about 6,300 and the seven-day average of deaths has been about 860, she added.

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