Monthly Archives: July 2015

Give them their space!

By Cassandra Harris


Always play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space. They may be cute, but they’re not pets. Even healthy, wild animals often lash out at people in fear if they are cornered or touched. Bites and scratches can be painful, but they can also transmit diseases, viruses and parasites. One of those viruses is the rabies virus.

Both people and animals are susceptible to the rabies virus. The rabies virus is known to be transmitted from mammal to mammal through exposure to saliva or neural tissue. If you are not exposed to saliva or neural tissue from a rabid animal, you cannot contract the virus. Similarly, an animal that is not infected with the rabies virus cannot transmit the virus to another animal or a person.

For a list of rabies signs and symptoms, please visit our Signs/Symptoms of Rabies webpage. Once symptoms of rabies are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning. The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.

Although wild animals contract rabies most often, domestic pets can contract the disease as well. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.

For additional information on rabies, visit or You may also contact your local DHEC BEHS office.

Spartanburg collaborative serves as national model for success

By Cassandra Harris

(Photo Courtesy: USEPA)

(Photo Courtesy: USEPA)

DHEC Director Catherine Heigel and members of our staff recently joined EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, State Representative Harold Mitchell Jr. and various federal, state and local officials in a tour and celebration of the ReGenesis Project. A national model in successful public-private community partnerships, the project is credited with revitalizing Spartanburg, and the surrounding community.

Linking neighborhood health concerns to the pollution in his community, Representative Mitchell, then a resident, founded ReGenesis Project with the mission to represent neighborhood interest in cleaning up contaminated sites and revitalizing the surrounding community. The project leveraged an initial $20,000 grant from the EPA Office of Environmental Justice into more than $270 million in community investment. This April, the ReGenesis Project was recognized by the National Planning Association and received the National Planning Excellence Awards for Advancing Diversity and Social Change.

Drawing on support from residents, local industry and government agencies at the local, state and federal level, the collaborative effort has had a significant impact on the community. Among the notable successes include:

  • ​Working with 124 partners to raise public awareness, and reverse the health impacts that industrial toxic wastes have had on the Spartanburg region;
  • Addressing environmental justice issues in the community, resulting in several site cleanups, infrastructure improvements, job training opportunities, quality of life improvements;
  • Establishing six (6) ReGenesis Health Care Centers that remain dedicated to reducing and eliminating economic, racial, social, gender, and age barriers to foster wellness in the community;
  • Construction of over 500 new affordable/workforce housing units, senior housing, a neighborhood park, and an award-winning community center; and
  • Through collaborative efforts, developing reuse plans for formerly contaminated property which includes building a solar farm, an urban golf course and an advance manufacturing learning center on the former Arkwright Dump Site.

During the event, DHEC’s Karen Sprayberry was presented with a House Resolution from Representative Mitchell upon her retirement from the agency. Karen Sprayberry played a major role in assisting with the success of the collaborative, helping work with various stakeholders throughout the community to communicate objectives and find solutions. Signed by members of the SC House of Representatives, the Resolution recognizes Karen for her over 28 years of service and dedication to the agency. Congratulations Karen!

(Photos Courtesy: USEPA)

(Photos Courtesy: USEPA)

USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image

USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image

Is this fish safe to eat?

By Jim Beasley 


As temperatures rise across South Carolina, many of us are drawn to water. South Carolina has many beautiful lakes, streams and coastal areas for recreational activities — including fishing. It’s helpful to know that some fish can carry toxins in their tissue. You need to limit how much of them you eat.

Each year, DHEC issues its Fish Consumption Advisory in both print and online versions. The 2015 edition is available now.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet. Along with protein and other nutrients, fish are also low in saturated fat and contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight heart disease.

David Wilson of DHEC’s Bureau of Water says largemouth bass in Dargan’s Pond, Lake George Warren and Lake Ashwood have been added to this year’s list. The fish contain mercury in their tissue, meaning that you shouldn’t eat more than one meal per week of largemouth bass caught in those waters.

Along with mercury, some fish can contain PCBs or radioisotopes, also requiring advisories. Pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, infants and children should avoid eating any fish covered by an advisory.

To make it easy to identify problem areas and the fish in those areas that might be tainted, DHEC publishes an interactive map with explanations of specific fish and quantities that are safe to eat.

For more information, click here.

Tips for healthy eating during the hot summer months

By Mary-Kathryn Craft


Options for healthy and tasty dishes are almost endless this time of year with so many fresh fruits and vegetables available. However, it can be easy for summer’s bounty of possibilities to overwhelm you.

Watermelons are in season in July and are great to eat when it’s hot outside as they help keep you hydrated. Follow these tips for selecting and storing watermelons:

  • Choose symmetrical melons with dried stems and yellowish undersides
  • Store at room temperature until cut
  • Refrigerate cut watermelons in airtight container for use within five days.

Need a recipe? Download these It’s Your Health…Take Charge! recipe cards featuring a variety of vegetables and fruits including a great seasonal idea for minty watermelon cucumber salad.

Remember, fruits provide nutrients important for your health such a potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folic acid. They are also naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. Vegetables are essential because they provide vitamins and minerals, and most are low in calories, too.

Check out DHEC’s serving size and shopping tips page for more ideas and resources on healthy eating.

If you’re looking for a farmer’s market that accepts Women, Infants and Children checks, use this map.

Susan Bolick Wins Distinguished Service Award from NAACCR

By Cassandra Harris
Susan Bolick

We are proud to announce that our very own Susan Bolick was recently named this year’s recipient of the North American Association of Center Cancer Registries’ (NAACCR) Constance L. Percy Award for Distinguished Service. A prestigious honor, the award recognizes Susan for her distinguished leadership, dedication, and perseverance in achieving data standards, commitment to efficient registry operations, and faithful service to NAACCR and the cancer surveillance community.

“This award is quite an honor, especially in the cancer registry community,” said Deborah Hurley, SCCCR Assistant Director. “We are all very proud of Susan and appreciate the opportunity to work with and be inspired by her.”

A valued member of the DHEC family for more than 20 years, Susan serves as our South Carolina Central Cancer Registry (SCCCR) Director. Involved in the planning stages of a state cancer registry for South Carolina since the mid-1980s, she currently provides inspiration and leadership to a staff of 15, including Certified Tumor Registrars (CTRs), an epidemiologist, a statistician, a database management specialist, and administrative staff.

Congratulations to Susan, and thank you to our entire SCCCR team for the work that you do each and every day.


South Carolina’s population-based public health surveillance system for the systematic collection, processing, management, dissemination, and interpretation of newly diagnosed cancer cases (cancer incidence), the SCCCR is responsible for the collection and maintenance of vital cancer-related data. The data are used to study trends in how often and what types of cancers occur in a defined area, changes in diagnosis and treatment patterns, and patients’ survival rates. Our SCCCR team contributes South Carolina cancer incidence data for the official statistics publication for the nation, United States Cancer Statistics, and works to address community cancer concerns (perceived cancer clusters) through community cancer assessment investigations.