Monthly Archives: December 2014

Flu season is here, are you prepared?

By Cassandra Harris


This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and a great reminder that it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. As you begin to prepare for this holiday season, take a moment to learn how you can protect yourself and the ones you love from the flu.

The flu can mean missed days at work or school, doctor’s visits, or worse for you and your family. From Sept. 28, 2014 to Dec. 06, 2014 (the current 2014-2015 flu season), there have been 5,827 lab confirmed cases of the flu reported in South Carolina, including over 300 confirmed hospitalizations and seven deaths. While certain people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu, individuals 6 months of age and older, including healthy adults, can benefit from receiving their yearly flu vaccine.

The CDC and DHEC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual flu vaccine; it is the single best way to prevent seasonal flu. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider you can still get the flu vaccine. In addition to DHEC, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools, and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. We encourage everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

In addition to receiving your yearly flu vaccination, there are several steps you can take to help fight the flu: Continue reading

Congrats to DHEC’s Newest Shellfish Officer

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By Cassandra Harris

Today in South Carolina, approximately 578,000 acres of natural molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels) areas are monitored by the state. Responsible for the stewardship of these grounds, our Shellfish Sanitation Program monitors and surveys these areas to assure that the shellfish are suitable for human consumption.

With public health and safety in mind, the primary goal of our shellfish program is to ensure that shellfish and the areas from which they are harvested meet the health and environmental quality standards provided by federal guidelines and state regulations. In addition, the program promotes water quality restoration of state waters designated for the harvest of shellfish.

The patrol activities conducted by our Shellfish Officers play an important role in helping the program meet its goals. These patrols are conducted on foot, by boat, and on land vehicles. When necessary, aircraft patrols are coordinated with S.C.  Department of Natural Resources.  In order to perform patrols, our officers must go through intensive training by the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. This training includes various classes, practical scenarios, firearms skills, and driver training to prepare graduates for their new careers.

We are proud to introduce the newest officer in our Shellfish Sanitation Program, Sydni Pope. Pope recently graduated from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, where she completed a rigorous twelve week long course to become a certified Class 1 Law Enforcement Officer.

Congratulations to Syndi, and thank you to all of our Shellfish Officers for the work that you do every day.

Leading by Example: DHEC Employee Flu Vaccination Drive

By Jamie Shuster

TB Staff Flu Vax 100%

A few weeks ago, DHEC launched our annual employee flu vaccination drive. This year, we decided to try something new to make it as easy as possible for our busy staff to get their vaccine. Instead of holding traditional clinic dates, our nursing team went door-to-door, offering each one of our nearly 3,500 employees a vaccine in the comfort of their office. We also gave employees the option of receiving a nasal mist vaccine as an alternative to the shot for the first time.

As a result, we’ve achieved a new record participation rate, with 85% of DHEC employees now vaccinated against the flu only 8 weeks into the campaign.

I would like to take a moment to recognize a few of our areas who have gone a step beyond and have already earned a 100% participation rate in the employee flu vaccine campaign. In our regions, the Midlands has become the first regional team to achieve a 100% vaccination status. Thank you to the entire Midlands team for helping to protect our clients and your fellow colleagues from the flu this year.

Here in Central Office, I’m pleased to announce that the following areas have also achieved a perfect participation rate: Continue reading

Teamwork leads to vital finding in unique lead case

By Cassandra Harris
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Today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children. Yet, approximately 500,000 U.S. children between the ages of 1-5 have blood-lead levels above the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter.

In the State of South Carolina, all blood-lead levels are required by law to be reported to DHEC.  Committed to reducing the risks of lead exposure, DHEC’s Division of Children’s Health, in conjunction with the Bureau of Environmental Health Services, follows up on cases that indicate elevated blood-lead levels, providing home investigation and assessments as necessary. Recently, this team’s collaborative and persistent efforts provided a successful determination of a lead source, and a very positive outcome for a local family.

In response to a referral from the Division of Children’s Health, regarding significantly elevated blood-lead levels of children in a non-English speaking Midlands family household, Barbara Charles, a bilingual nurse, accompanied the Bureau of Environmental Health Services certified lead risk assessor, Richard Turner, to inspect the residence. Continue reading