COVINGTON, Ky. -- While this past flu season was rough for communities around the nation, Northern Kentucky experienced the highest number of flu cases ever in its recorded history, according to the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department.
During the 2012-2013 season, which ended May 25, 3,492 cases of flu were reported in Northern Kentucky -- including eight deaths. In the 2011-2012 flu season, only 284 cases of flu were reported in Northern Kentucky.
That is an increase of 1,100 percent.
"This past flu season as a whole was pretty harsh," said health department spokesperson Emily Gresham Wherle. "There was higher flu activity this year nationwide. Not just Northern Kentucky."
Wherle said both the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons are considered "abnormal." The average number of reported flu cases per season in Northern Kentucky usually lands around 1,000 to 1,200.
She said this past flu season's strain was particularly stronger than past seasons. And the higher number of cases could be attributed to improved tracking by the health department.
"We had cases from mid-January to mid-March," Wherle said. "But some of the jump in numbers may be because we're doing better reporting and more people are seeking treatment with anti-viral medications."
Wherle added that the eight people who died during this past season may have had underlying health problems. While flu was listed as the cause of the death, some had complicated medical histories and were often not vaccinated, she said.
"We encourage people to get vaccinated," she said. "The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it's a good tool."
Wherle said those who have been vaccinated may still get the flu, but the symptoms will be milder. According to the health department, which covers Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties, flu shots protect between 70 and 90 percent of the people who receive them.