Kansans should be prepared to deal with latest outbreak.

Health officials are eager to see more people vaccinated against the flu.

The Finney County Health Department, working alongside Finney County Emergency Management and Finney County EMS, even had a drive-through flu shot clinic in September. It encouraged vaccinations, and served as a practice run should emergency officials have to respond to a pandemic outbreak of some kind.

Influenza better known as the flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. The first reports of flu for the 2013-14 season in the Sunflower State materialized recently in the Wichita area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the past 31 flu seasons nationwide have seen annual deaths range from 3,000 to a staggering 49,000 children and adults. Some senior citizens, young children and people with certain health conditions are at higher risk for serious flu complications.

At the University of Kansas Hospital, health officials know the best way to avoid the illness is to get a flu shot. Everyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated.

Anyone unsure about the vaccine should know it's safe and effective. KU health experts say a person cannot get the flu from the shot because it contains a "killed" virus.

Those who fear another kind of reaction should know the risk is greater if they pass on the shot and remain susceptible to a serious bout of the flu.

Getting vaccinated and becoming immune also helps protect others in the community.

Other steps to avoid getting and spreading the flu:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after use.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you get the flu, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as germs spread that way.

It's necessary to pursue every safeguard possible, to include a vaccine in place to combat another flu season sure to strike with a vengeance.