Don't downplay importance of vaccination against flu.

Another flu season has hit hard in Kansas.

By mid-December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had included Kansas on the list of widespread flu outbreaks.

"Widespread" means more than 50 percent of geographic regions in a state counties, for example are reporting flu activity. It addresses the spread of the flu, not its severity.

This year's influenza season has seen a resurgence of the H1N1 strain of the virus blamed for "swine" flu, with cases reported in western Kansas and throughout the Sunflower State.

The 2009-10 H1N1 flu situation was both unusual and alarming in causing severe complications and death among groups of people not ordinarily at such high risk, including young adults and pregnant women. It reportedly killed some 17,000 people nationwide.

Health officials noted the H1N1 virus affected many younger people who didn't get a flu shot because they believed their health wasn't at risk.

The flu can indeed be a serious health threat to anyone, including otherwise healthy people. Too many people downplay the need for the preventive measure of a flu shot, even though health officials say everyone older than 6 months should receive the vaccination.

The CDC estimated 79,000 flu-related hospitalizations were prevented during the 2012-13 flu season alone because of vaccinations.

Along with flu shots, other ways to ward off the sickness 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 and discard used tissues. When you're sick, protect others by staying home.

Above all, the most important health message is to know the flu is preventable.

Sources such as the Finney County Health Department report flu vaccine still in stock. People should check with their provider in advance before heading out for a vaccination.

Flu season in this region usually peaks in February, and the vaccine takes an estimated two weeks to become most effective.

It's not too late for a flu shot. Get armed with every possible safeguard, to include a vaccine in place to combat the threat of yet another nasty flu season.