CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Health officials say apart from the H1N1 "swine flu" season in 2009, the 2012-13 flu season may be the worst they've seen in the past 10 years.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said the cases are rising more quickly than they did during in the 2011-12 flu season.
"And the flu activity we're seeing this year, we're seeing the highest activity in a decade besides H1N1," he said.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on Friday reported that in West Virginia "there have only been 1,393 reported confirmed cases this season."
"While flu is reported to be widespread across the state, West Virginia's data indicates 1,393 confirmed cases," said Dr. Marian Swinker, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health. "The important health message right now for the public is that influenza is preventable."
But those confirmed cases represent only a portion of the number of cases in the community, Gupta said.
Confirmed cases of the flu are laboratory-tested and verified to be the influenza virus.
Not every case is confirmed, though, Gupta said.
"If you start testing every case we will exhaust our resources," Gupta said.
Many physicians use a nasal swab and not a laboratory to confirm the flu, said Janet Briscoe, director of epidemiology for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
"Having [around] 1,500 confirmed flu cases does not by any means indicate that's all there is in the community," Briscoe said.
Healthy people often do not seek medical attention for the flu and therefore those numbers would not be confirmed either, Gupta said.
Until December, there were no confirmed cases of the flu in Kanawha County, she said.
The flu season started earlier in the calendar than it usually does and it probably has not yet peaked, she said.
"I don't want anyone to panic," Briscoe said. "I want people to be prepared and do what they can to prevent it. We do know this season it's still in the community."