Go red TBT

#GoRedWearRed on Friday, February 5

By S.C. DHEC Staff

Did you know that heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined?

It’s a startling statistic, and raising awareness can help save the life of a sister, daughter, mother, friend or coworker. 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.

One easy thing you can do to help is to wear red on National Wear Red Day this Friday, February 5 to raise awareness about the risk of heart disease and stroke for women. #GoRedWearRed #WearRedforWomen Who will you go red for?

Go Red for South Carolina
In S.C., there is work to do to help improve the health of the ladies in our lives. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death for all women in South Carolina, and is the leading killer for African-American women in the Palmetto State. More than 62 percent of women in S.C. are overweight or obese and about 53 percent do not get the recommended amount of exercise. One in three women have high blood pressure, and one in eight women live with diabetes.

Ways to prevent heart disease

Help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke-related deaths by following and sharing these important health recommendations:

  • Stop smoking or using tobacco. There are free resources to help you quit – you can do it!
  • Maintain a healthy weight with a Body Mass Index between 19 and 24. Find your body mass index on this chart. 
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s low in fat, cholesterol and salt
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Take your medicine
  • Manage your diabetes
  • Get regular health screenings and make sure to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked.

Know the warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath

And, if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 right away!

For more information, please visit DHEC’s heart disease webpage.


Happy World Wetlands Day

By Heather Preston,  Director, Water Quality Division, SCDHEC – Bureau of Water

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, and it’s a great day to learn about South Carolina’s beautiful wetlands and their importance. The state’s vibrant marshes and wonder-filled swamps are not only a natural heritage attraction for visitors, but they also play a critical role in ensuring a healthy watershed and environment.

There are approximately 4.1 million acres of wetlands in South Carolina according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Wetlands are vegetated aquatic ecosystems that include areas such as Carolina bays, marshes and swamps.

Wetlands support the state’s economy by providing outdoor recreation opportunities and habitat for wildlife popular with hunters and fisherman such as waterfowl, fish and shellfish. Wetlands are also home to reptiles and amphibian populations as well as rare aquatic plants.


An American alligator swims lazily through lily pads in a wetland buffer area.

In addition to supporting recreation and wildlife, the watery environs provide safety and health benefits to communities in the state by reducing flooding, cleaning and replenishing water supplies.


DHEC Wetland Program employee Rusty Wenerick conducting research for a national wetland quality study.

One of South Carolina’s treasured wetlands is Francis Beidler Forest – a nationally and internationally recognized old growth swamp. It is a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance and contains South Carolina’s oldest confirmed Bald Cypress tree and the second oldest Bald Cypress in the world.


Francis Beidler Forest

If you haven’t visited a wetland area, make plans to get outside and explore these natural wonders.

For more information on DHEC’s water quality program, visit www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/.

biofire edit

Detecting Outbreak Causes Faster with New Technology

By Jim Beasley

In a disease outbreak that threatens the public’s health, time is of the essence.

Thanks to the new FilmArray BioFire system acquired recently by DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories, identifying the pathogens that cause these outbreaks has been reduced to approximately 90 minutes. Prior to this important acquisition, identification of the causes of disease could take one-to-three days.

BioFire proved its significance when five people fell ill after swimming in a Lowcountry community pool. Using regular testing procedures, the pool’s water sample provided nothing of major concern to DHEC’s investigators. The tests found only extremely low levels of germs, and it appeared the pool would be allowed to reopen.

However, a different type of sample was sent to DHEC’s lab to undergo further testing using the new BioFire system. BioFire identified the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium, also known as “Crypto,” which can cause severe diarrheal illness. Because of its outer shell, Crypto is able to survive outside the body for long periods of time — and can even survive disinfection by chlorine used in swimming pools.

“This technology not only allows us to get results faster,” explains Dr. Shahiedy Shahied, bureau chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories, “but it expands the number of pathogens that we can identify. For a gastrointestinal outbreak it allows us to test for an additional seven pathogens, and the respiratory panel allows us to detect seven additional pathogens that we have no other way to detect.”

Dr. Shahied adds that running samples through the BioFire system is more expensive than more commonly used tests but, in this case, it proved its worth. Identification of Crypto enabled health care providers to offer the appropriate treatments for the five swimmers, helping them on their path to recovery more quickly.

Speaking of BioFire, Rachel Radcliffe, director of DHEC’s Surveillance and Outbreak Investigation Section, said, “It is particularly useful when a pathogen is initially unknown during an outbreak investigation because it can provide timely results that allow us to implement appropriate preventive measures and limit disease transmission.”

BioFire enables DHEC’s public health investigators to respond more rapidly to outbreak situations and makes possible a quicker response and containment of the outbreak. As a result, DHEC can identify threats like Crypto more quickly, helping protect you from bugs that can make you sick.


New 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

By Shorus E. Manning, RD, LD, SNAP-Education Dietitian, DHEC Professional and Community Nutrition Services

Dietary Guidelines are released every five years by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. These recommendations influence various federal nutrition programs and the day-to-day lives of Americans. The vast majority of the recent report is similar to previous guidelines, but there are some key differences.

What You Need to Know

  • Cholesterol – The new guidelines no longer include a limit of 300 mg a day. Instead, just focus consuming as little as possible. Remember that we don’t need cholesterol from outside sources, since we make our own.
  • Overall Healthy Eating Pattern – Instead of focusing a great deal on individual components, the new guidelines emphasize an overall healthy eating pattern. So don’t look for specific foods to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses. Consider your whole diet. Your overall diet has the greatest potential to make you healthy instead of specific foods.
  • Sugar – This is one of the biggest changes in the new guidelines. We need to limit our added sugar to just 10 percent of our calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that is about 50 grams of added sugar per day.
  • Protein – The lean protein recommendations stay the same. However, there is an emphasis on incorporating 8 oz. of seafood into your weekly protein consumption. A single serving of fish is 3 oz., which is about the size of your checkbook. When it comes to eating too much protein, there was a specific focus on over consumption of protein by men and boys. The average amount should be between 5 to 6 oz. per day. A lower intake of processed meat like bacon, sausage and sandwich meats are encouraged, but this is a part of the whole healthy eating diet plan.

Click here to read the full content of the Eighth Edition of the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

4 Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe Indoors This Winter


By Marian Nanney, ESF-8 Response Program Assistant, DHEC Office of Public Health Preparedness

While the holidays may be over,  winter has just begun. It’s important to stay safe outside during inclement weather like ice and snow storms, but remember that there can be health hazards indoors too.

Indoor air can be up to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air, and the sources of indoor air pollution can be fire and safety hazards. Here are some easy steps to eliminate some common hazards and improve the air quality inside your home to keep your family healthy and safe.

fireplaceInspect your chimney.

If your home has a fireplace, inspect the chimney at the beginning and end of each fireplace season, clean the flue liner and repair any cracks. Periodic maintenance will ensure that you and your children are not breathing in harmful air pollutants which can build up in the chimney. It may also reveal a need for repairs which, done in a timely manner, will prevent the chimney from collapsing or catching fire.

Install smoke detectors.

smoke detectorProtect yourself and your family by installing smoke detectors throughout your home and replacing the batteries twice each year. If you have a house fire in the middle of the night, you might not be awakened by the smell of smoke before hazardous smoke and flames have traveled through portions of your home. Smoke detectors can help prevent injuries and smoke inhalation by alerting you as soon as possible.

Install a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

If you have a gas furnace, stove or water heater, then you are at risk for carbon monoxide buildup in your home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which can cause fatal poisoning in homes. Buy a carbon monoxide detector at your local home improvement store, test it once per month and replace the batteries twice each year.

Test Your Home for Radon

radon test kitJanuary is Radon Action Month and it’s a great reminder to test your home for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can get into your home through foundation cracks, plumbing and construction joints, and it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer next to tobacco use. You can get a free radon test kit by visiting www.scdhec.gov/radon.

While we can’t always predict when winter weather will force us indoors for long periods of time, we can do a great deal to reduce our exposure to indoor air pollutants and rid our homes of fire and safety hazards before winter weather strikes.

For more information on how to best prepare yourself and your family for a winter weather emergency, visit: