As expected, the current flu season is packing an extraordinary punch.
Health officials had predicted one of the more deadly outbreaks in years, which was disturbing enough considering the flu on average kills about 24,000 Americans annually.
With an intense flu epidemic indeed claiming an alarming number of lives of children and adults in recent weeks nationwide, local health-care providers have seen a surge in people seeking a flu vaccination.
Such sources as the Finney County Health Department report flu vaccine still in stock, but ask people to check with their provider in advance before heading out for a vaccination.
Whenever the nation experiences a serious flu outbreak, concern tends to focus on availability of the vaccine. While the supply appears to be sufficient this time, news in the past of some places running short led many Americans who likely would benefit from a flu vaccination to skip it to make sure others were served first.
Or, some downplay the need for the preventive measure — even though health officials say everyone older than 6 months should receive a flu shot. Just 39 percent of adults and 52 percent of children reportedly were immunized last year nationwide.
As the national flu epidemic worsens this year — Kansas already has had at least 460 deaths from flu-related complications compared to 1,300 last year, and the worst could be yet to come — the most important health message is to know that the sickness is preventable.
Along with flu shots, other ways to ward off the flu bear repeating:
Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Cough in your elbow, not your hand. Wash your hands often, discard used tissues, and when you're sick, protect others by staying home.
It's important to know flu season in this region usually peaks in February, and the vaccine takes an estimated two weeks to become most effective.
In other words, it's not too late for a flu shot. Arm yourself with every safeguard possible, to include a vaccine in place to combat a particularly miserable flu strain spreading throughout the nation.