Federal health officials said Monday this could be the worst year for the flu in the past decade. So far this year nearly 6.5 million cases have been confirmed. Almost 3,000 people have died from the flu and related complications.

West Virginia is not immune to the problem. Right now flu activity in West Virginia is considered to be widespread. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources doesn’t track the concrete number of individual cases of the flu because not everyone who seeks health care is tested and not everyone who is sick seeks health care. But they do track the number of positive lab results. The numbers are up from this time last year.

“The way that we track normal versus not normal is comparing the current season to previous flu seasons,” explained Lauren Spadafora, Influenza Surveillance Coordinator for West Virginia. “It is looking like this season is more severe than last season. It hasn’t reached levels of the particularly severe 2017 – 2018 season but of course the flu season is not predictable so who knows what is going to happen in the weeks to come.”

Most of the flu cases are influenza B.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance to keep from getting the flu. The primary recommendation is to get the flu shot. So far the CDC says over 170 million doses have been distributed. Everyday actions can also keep germs away.

“Washing your hands, using hand sanitizer if you don’t have soap and water available and when needing to cough or sneeze use your elbow rather than using your hands or just coughing into the immediate environment,” Spadafora explained.

You can also help protect yourself and others by staying home when you are sick.

“Which I realize is a hard thing to do,” she said. “But workplaces and schools should have policies that encourage people to stay home when they are sick.” In some cases, doctors may also prescribe antiviral medications that fight against the flu in your body.