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Healthy teen saves family with COVID-19 who couldn't smell house fire

“Loss of smell” seems like a relatively minor symptom of COVID-19, but it might have proven fatal for a virus-stricken family in Texas — if not for the one healthy daughter in the household.

Bianca Rivera, 17, is being hailed for her sharp (or at least functional) sense of smell, after she detected smoke in a home where everyone else’s senses had been dulled by the coronavirus. Loss of smell or taste is one of the most common symptoms of the disease.

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The fire broke out around 2 a.m. on Jan. 15 at the family’s home in Waco, Texas, local station KWTX reports. Rivera smelled the smoke and rushed around the house to wake her three family members.

“I started smelling burnt plastic and that’s when I got more alert and ran outside of my room and I couldn’t even pass the hallway because it was filled with so much smoke,” she said. “I knew I had to wake everyone up.”

Rivera rounded up her family members and rushed them outside, then hurried back in to save the family’s four dogs.

“Honestly, it was just me protecting my family and getting them to safety,” she said. “It didn’t matter to me if I was going to get hurt or I was going to get burned. As long as I got them out safe and sound, I was going to be fine.”

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She also shrugged off praise for her actions.

“I don’t really count myself as a hero,” she said. “I would just do whatever anyone else would do for their own family.”

The house burned down and the family was not able to save anything from it. The Red Cross has stepped in to put them up in a motel, and the local high school community has launched a fundraiser and clothing drive to help the family in need.

The cause of the fire has not been released.

The Waco Fire Department highlighted the incident on Twitter as a good reminder to install fire alarms at home.

“This family is lucky to be alive,” the fire department said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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