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      Coping with 'what's going around'

      You can minimize your chances of getting winter sicknesses, and help stop their spread

      Doctors' offices are packed as Central New Yorkers deal with wintertime colds and more.

      "It is completely normal at this time of year for us to be giving each other viruses," says Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow. She points out we're inside a lot longer, and the dry air may allow all sorts of viruses to have a longer 'shelf life'.

      "It's actually been to the point where people are coming to us, they're just not feeling well," says Dr. Alex Filipski, at St. Joseph's Family Medicine practice, who is dealing with over-full waiting rooms, as are many general and pediatric practices in the area.Common cold, cough, sore throat and fever are the common symptoms. He says over-the-counter pain relievers and salt water for gargling are the best relief, but it generally takes a week to 10 days to get over it.

      Gastro-intestinal viruses--the same as affecting hundreds of passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas right now--are also common here in Central New York this time of year, according to Dr. Morrow.

      Both physicians off the same strategies for staying healthy:

      ~Washing hands regularly (and thoroughly) will help stop the spread of germs. Dr. Morrow says if you're not near a sink, hand sanitizer will do, and everyone should have some in the car or office (she has a 'flu bug' a stylized blue container in her office to dispense it)~Sneeze into your sleeve, not your hand, cough into a disposable tissue. If you must use your hand, wash it quickly.~STAY HOME if you are running a fever, or have vomiting or diarrhea. You'll speed your recovery, but also spare co-workers, family or classmates.