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Don't let your holidays be ruined by the "gift" of a cold or flu virus, says U-M doctor who offers tips for avoiding and coping with common viruses.

ANN ARBOR, MI - Jeff Desmond, M.D., already knows what he's getting for Christmas: hundreds of people with colds and flu coming to see him and his staff at the University of Michigan hospital emergency room.

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Some of them will need medical help for especially bad infections. But most of them would probably have been better off at home, in bed, with a cup of hot soup and a blanket. And many of them probably could have avoided getting sick in the first place, if people only followed simple tips to keep from spreading germs.

This year's "holiday russh" of colds and flu may be especially bad, Desmond predicts, because of the shortage of flu vaccine. Even if unvaccinated people don't get sick themselves, they can get a mild infection and spread the flu virus to others. The same goes for colds.

In other words, at holiday parties, family get-togethers, and anywhere people gather at this festive time of year, viruses may be spreading faster than Christmas cheer.

But there are simple and specific things you can do to keep yourself from getting

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