BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — LSU researchers at the Health Precision Medicine Lab announced that they have discovered two new Omicron subvariants of COVID-19 Tuesday.

“There were four cases, three of which one apparently new subvariant and another one to another one,” said Dr. Lucio Miele, MD, Ph.D., LSU Health Precision Medicine Lab. “We don’t know whether these actually originated locally or we detected them locally but they came from somewhere else.

Miele explained that there are hundreds of subvariants of Omicron, but there are two that are sweeping the nation.

“What we have been observing was a rapid increase in the Omicron subvariants that are called BA.4 and BA.5 which essentially doubled in the space of two weeks,” Miele said.

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said the country is in the sixth surge of COVID-19 with BA.4 and BA.5 identified as the main contributors to this wave.

“Growing in prevalence nationwide,” Kanter said. “They comprise 71 percent of all new cases nationally and about 76 percent new cases in our part of the country, so we are ahead of the national curve.”

“BA.4 and BA.5 are already extremely contagious and we are already seeing an rise in hospitalizations again,” Miele emphasized.

In Louisiana, there are more than 500 COVID patients in the hospital and 23 of them are on a ventilator. But Dr. Kanter said this not as bad as the beginning of the pandemic.

“We are not stressing out our hospitals, we are not coming close to hospital capacity,” Miele said.

While the threat of hospitalization has been muted, Miele still warns of the long term effects.

“Long COVID is more common than people realize. Depending on whose data you are looking at, it’s either a quarter to half of the cases of COVID can produce long-term consequences and this is independent of both the age of the patient or the severity of the regional case. So you can be a young vigorous person with a mild case of COVID and be sick for six months or a year and be unable to work,” Miele said.