BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)–Health experts are calling the latest variant of COVID-19, XBB.1.5.

“30 percent of our new cases of COVID are this new strain, XBB.1.5. And that fits pretty closely with what the rest of the country is seeing,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

Kanter says this variant is the most transmissible yet. In just a few weeks, cases of the variant went from less than five percent to 30 percent, according to LDH.

“It will become the dominant strain pretty soon,” Kanter said. “It’s increasing very quickly.”

But as of Monday, the variant has not triggered a significant increase in hospitalizations.

“All the variants we’ve seen, although most of them seem to be more transmissible, we haven’t seen one that really renders the current protection of the vaccines ineffective,” said Kanter.

Kanter explained that this strain is the result of a COVID surge brought about by holiday travel and gatherings. Cases in Louisiana are surging, but patients are not facing severe illness.

“So, about 95 percent of the state of Louisiana has either been vaccinated against, had COVID, or both,” he said.

So, what should you do?

Kanter cautions those who have not been vaccinated or boosted, saying these individuals should expect severe symptoms. He’s also urging locals to take precautions because people are getting sick.

“While most people these days do very well when they get COVID, that’s not universal. We still see 20 to 30 COVID deaths per week on average right now,” said Kanter.

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