Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the illness, but health officials say time is running out to get a vaccine because it takes up to two weeks to develop immunity after getting the vaccine.
Children younger than 5, pregnant women, those older than 65 and people with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease are at greater risk of complications from the flu, according to the release from the KCHD. For those at greater risk of complications, the flu vaccine is even more important, according to the KCHD. It's also important for the caretakers of those with increased risk of complications to get a vaccine, health officials said.
"Sometimes I hear people say, 'Oh, it's just the flu,' but if you could prevent yourself or a loved one from being ill in bed for a week and possibly suffer severe complications, wouldn't you want to do that?" Gupta said.
Central West Virginia had the highest number of confirmed cases, 2,945, while north-central West Virginia had the lowest number, 943. There were 1,659 cases in Southern West Virginia, 1,553 in the Mid-Ohio Valley, 1,520 in eastern West Virginia, 1,177 in western West Virginia and 1,155 in Northern West Virginia. The state's regional breakdown also includes Kanawha County, which had 619 cases.
No cases were reported in Pleasants, Berkeley, Randolph, Pendleton and McDowell counties. More than 1,000 cases were reported in both Summers and Webster counties.
Flu seasons usually peak at the end of January or in early February but this year's season might peak early, Merritt said.
"It's hard to say, we're still trending upwards. It's hard to say when we're going to trend back down,'' Merritt said.
Most of West Virginia's cases are influenza AH3, which is included in this year's flu vaccine, Merritt said.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department offers flu vaccinations daily without appointment from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 304-344-5243 or visit www.kchdwv.org.