DHEC urges South Carolinians to protect against mosquito bites in light of West Nile Virus identification

Identification of West Nile Virus in mosquitoes in South Carolina is a reminder of the importance of protecting against mosquito bites, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging residents to take precautions.

“The most important step anyone can take to prevent West Nile virus infection and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to protect against being bitten by a mosquito,” said Linda Bell, M.D., state epidemiologist.

So far this year in South Carolina, West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes at the Joint Base Charleston and the Shaw Air Force Base. It has also been detected in mosquitoes in Oconee, Sumter and York Counties. In addition to mosquitoes, DHEC has confirmed the first human cases of West Nile Virus in South Carolina this year.

“Most people infected with West Nile Virus have no symptoms of illness,” said Dr. Bell. “About one in five people infected becomes ill within two to 14 days with symptoms including fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting. Often they experience sensitivity to light and inflammation of the eyelids. Some may have a rash. The risk of serious illness is low. Less than one percent of people infected develop a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis.”

Dr. Bell said that West Nile Virus is a disease of birds transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds.

DHEC recommends residents pay attention to the most effective ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting.
  • Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
  • Exposure to mosquitoes is most common during the early morning. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.
  • For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites, click here.

For more information about WNV, visit www.scdhec.gov/westnile or the CDC’s page, www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

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