BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Health leaders are reporting a new COVID strain called “pirola” and doctors said it could be more contagious than previous variants.

Doctors said the new variant is likely more contagious and they want you to be mindful of those safe practices and take precautions when sick.

UAB top infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag said the new COVID variant “pirola” is making its way around Alabama and because of that, COVID cases and hospitalizations are increasing.

Saag said the pandemic is now in the endemic stage meaning the COVID surge has stopped but the virus won’t disappear altogether. He said instead it will circulate, likely contained and producing new variants.

“Look at this like the weather,” Saag said. “Every now and then a storm comes through, and we know how to respond. The good news is it doesn’t appear to be a severe storm. We don’t necessarily have to go to our safe place or close things down or start changing how we go to work or go to school.”

Saag said if your immune system is compromised, wear a mask when in public and limit your time at large gatherings when new strains, like this one, pop up and as always, follow good hygiene practices like hand washing.

“The take home points are new variants continue to emerge,” Saag said. “Each variant seems to be a little more contagious than the one before. (As) always people who have problems with their immune systems should take extra precautions. For the rest of us it’s a storm and we just batten down the hatches and plow on as best we can.”

Saag said he expects this rise in COVID cases to last for the next three to four weeks.