SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Local health experts say the BA.2 omicron variant of the coronavirus has been on the rise across the country over the past six weeks and it is now the dominant strain in Northwest Louisiana.

Doctors at Ochsner LSU Health say the new BA.2 variant is up to 15 times more transmissible than the earliest variants of coronavirus, although a fraction of people who are infected are ending up in the hospital.

“In the hospital we aren’t seeing a lot of COVID and the people who do have it are not symptomatic,” said Dr. Michael Sewell, Chief of Hospital Medicine at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport.

Doctors credit vaccination, mitigation, and evolution.

“As mysteriously as the virus came on, it’s kind of evolved and become a little less problematic when people get it,” said Dr. Sewell.

“The BA.2 variant is a lot like the omicron variant in the sense that it is a milder disease than the earlier variants that were circulating like delta last summer,” explained Dr. John Vanchiere, Infectious Disease Specialist, Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport.

“I don’t think an unreasonable fear of these new variants is warranted yet.” Dr. Sewell added.

Dr. Sewell says we are finding more variants because our technology has become more precise.

“As our technology continues to evolve we’re going to learn more about the virus and find more variants,” said Sewell. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean each of those variants is going to be more serious,”

“We still need and have ongoing research to improve the vaccines and produce more and better medications to treat COVID,” said Dr. Vanchiere. “So we learned a lot and we’re still working to solve this problem and prevent it from coming back.”

Both doctors encourage people with underlying health risks to continue to wear masks in crowds and keep vaccinations up to date.