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Take precautions to keep flu from spreading

Every year the flu season manages to sweep through the city like a tornado, and taking down everyone in its path. The flu is so easily spread that it seems like once one person in your family gets it, everyone will be sick by the end of the week.

No one likes being sick, having to miss work or school, or being stuck in bed for a few days.

There are some safety tips to minimize your chances of getting the flu, and some common practices if you are "unlucky" enough to catch the seasonal bug.

The flu is more commonly known in the medical field as influenza. Influenza is a diagnosis that is caused by a number of different strains of a virus commonly found in humans, mammals and birds. The most common flu that affects us is the seasonal flu and although you can catch the flu at any time of the year, it is most common during flu season.

The timing of flu season can be very unpredictable, but traditionally it runs from November until March, with its peak season between December and February.

The flu virus is contagious, transferred from person to person. Someone with the flu can spread it to others as far as 6 feet away. When people sneeze, cough or talk small droplets fly through the air and land on other's eyes, noses, mouths or are inhaled into their lungs. You won't show any signs or symptoms for approximately four or five days; however, you can spread the virus to others during the incubation period.

The flu is not something most people want to just tough out. The virus can actually be pretty tough on your body, causing fevers and chills, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Fevers, if left untreated, can be very harmful to your general health; vomiting and diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and lead to death.

If left untreated for a period of time, the virus can spread and fester to greater medical problems. Influenza can lead to varying respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can also lead to sinus and ear infections.

Once you have the virus the best thing to do is visit your local family physician. Most doctors will prescribe a Z-pack, a common antibiotic medication used to fight colds and flus.

Remember to drink plenty of liquids; replenishing your fluid intake with water and Gatorade is essential to fighting the virus. Also remember to combat the fever; over-the-counter Tylenol usually does the trick.

If you can any other questions regarding the flu virus, please feel free to contact me at the fire station, or email me at bshea@bcnv.org.

Brian Shea is a Boulder City paramedic/firefighter.

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