It's that magical time of year when we get together with family and friends, enjoy food and drink, attend church services and watch Christmas specials or enjoy a board game.
Unfortunately, we may be sharing more than presents and the holiday spirit.
The Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department reports that two confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in its service area, which includes Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Perkins and Red Willow counties.
Not to be confused with the GI virus -- better known as the "stomach flu," influenza usually involves that sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, dry cough or muscle aches. It may last several days to week before recovery, and is especially serious for the elderly and people with diabetes, heart lung or kidney disease.
Influenza is highly contagious and is caused by the influenza virus, which is spread from person to person primarily through droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
That's why it's so important to cover your cough, especially during this holiday season, and wash your hands regularly.
1. Stay home when you are sick, especially if you have a fever. You should be fever free for a minimum of 24 hours (without fever reducing medication) before you return to work or school.
2. Get vaccinated each year.
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick or with others if you are sick.
4. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough into your inner elbow.
5. Wash your hands frequently using soap.
6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
7. Practice other good health habits such as getting plenty of sleep and exercise, managing your stress, drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious foods.
Since the flu season peaks in February, there's still time to receive your flu vaccine, by contacting the SWNPHD at 308-345-4223 or online at www.swhealth.ne.gov, or by contacting your healthcare provider.