Monthly Archives: November 2016

World AIDS Day 2016: Get tested

World AIDS Day is December 1, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging South Carolinians to get tested.

“More than 18,300 individuals are currently living with HIV/AIDS in South Carolina,” said DHEC Director of Health Services Lisa Davis. “Early detection through testing for HIV remains essential to successfully identifying and treating the disease and is critical to preventing new infections.”

“Most people in the early stages of HIV infection have no symptoms,” said Davis. “Early diagnosis can link people to services that will help them stay healthy longer, benefit most from treatment, reduce costly hospital visits, and help prevent transmission to others.”

Get tested for free

DHEC clinics provide HIV testing for free or at a reduced cost depending on the client’s insurance coverage or ability to pay throughout the year. On December 1, in recognition of World AIDS Day, free HIV testing will be offered at DHEC clinical service sites. Find a health department near you at  worldaidsdaybox

“DHEC continues to work closely with our partners to promote routine HIV testing for early diagnosing and delivering targeted services to those most in need,” said Davis. “Through our clinics and the partnerships with community providers, testing in 2015 helped diagnose and link 345 people to HIV medical care who may have otherwise not known their status until much later.”

“In the fight against HIV, education and early detection is our strongest weapon,” said Carmen Julious of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services, a DHEC community partner that provides targeted testing. “Advancements in HIV medications and treatments continue to help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives, but patients can only benefit from treatment by learning their HIV status as soon as possible, by being tested, and then being linked into a care program.”

Learn more

For more information about HIV testing, as well as local HIV testing sites, call DHEC’s AIDS/STD Hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS (1-800-322-2437), or visit DHEC’s website at

Five key questions — and their answers — about the flu

By Dr. Teresa Foo, MD, MPH
DHEC Medical Consultant
Immunizations and Acute Disease Epi Divisions

The flu can affect anyone, even healthy people. That is important to remember as we move further into the 2016-17 flu season. If you have not gotten your yearly flu vaccine, now is a good time to do so because it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop a protective response and it is the best way to prevent the flu.

The following Q & A provides you with the information to help protect you and your loved ones from the flu this season.

  1. What is the flu and how is it spread?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe, even deadly illness — especially in vulnerable people. Symptoms can include fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness. 

Seasonal flu is usually spread from person to person. People who have the flu may spread it to others from about one day before they develop symptoms for up to seven days after.  Flu viruses are spread when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk spread respiratory droplets. Others become infected when these droplets are inhaled or enter the nose or mouth by touching with hands that have been soiled by the respiratory droplets.

  1. Who is at risk?

While anyone, including healthy people, can get the flu, certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people (especially people 65 years of age and older), young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease). While it is important for everyone to receive their yearly flu vaccine, it is especially important for people in these high risk groups to do so.

  1. How can you help prevent the flu?

Remember, the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get your flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHEC recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

In addition, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick to avoid getting others sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy; throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow to cover yourself.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches one of those areas.

Other good habits include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating good food to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year.

  1. Will the “nasal spray” be available this flu season?

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted that the intranasal live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray,” should not be used this season after data showed it did not provide good protection against the H1N1 influenza virus during the 2013-14 and 2015-16 flu seasons. As a result, DHEC will not be offering nasal spray in health departments or school vaccine clinics this year.

The good news is that flu shots have still proved to be effective. Data found the injectable vaccine to be very effective in preventing flu when well matched with circulating flu strains.

  1. Where can I get the flu vaccine?

It’s important to get the flu vaccine not only to protect yourself, but also your loved ones from the 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.

To find the DHEC seasonal flu clinic nearest you, click here.

For more information:

Don’t let foodborne illnesses ruin your holiday!

During the holidays, many people gather with friends and family to enjoy one another’s company and share scrumptious meals.

Don’t let foodborne illnesses ruin your holiday cheer. Be sure to properly prepare and store food to ensure your holidays are indeed merry — and safe.

Here are some food safety tips to help make your seasonal gatherings a success:

Safe Temperatures

  • Keep foods out of the “danger zone,” which is between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • While frozen, food is safe indefinitely, but the quality will degrade over time.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator; this can safely be done for up to 5 days.

Proper Washing

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often — before, during and after food preparation.
  • Bacteria can’t be washed off raw food. Cooking is the only way to kill potentially dangerous organisms.

Food Separation

  • Separate raw food from cooked/ready-to-eat food.
  • Either use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils or thoroughly wash with soap and water between uses.

Leftover Storage

  • Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • When storing leftovers, cut them into smaller pieces and store them in shallow dishes so they can chill faster.
  • Make sure the refrigerator is not over packed so that proper air circulation will occur; this will ensure proper cooling.
  • Leftovers are safe for three to four days in the refrigerator and forever while frozen; use frozen food within two to six months for the best quality. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • When preparing leftovers, make sure to reheat them to 165°F before serving.

For more information on holiday food safety, including how to properly prepare turkey, stuffing and other food items, visit the DHEC website.

MPLX Terminals, LLC Renews Membership in S.C. Environmental Excellence Program


The SC Environmental Excellence Program (SCEEP) recognizes the MPLX Terminals, LLC (MPX) terminal in Belton, South Carolina, on its renewed membership in the program. This MPLX facility has been a member since 2009 and strives to be an industry leader in energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.

SCEEP is a voluntary environmental leadership initiative designed to recognize and reward facilities that have demonstrated superior environmental performance through pollution prevention, energy and resource conservation, and the use of an environmental management system. Any South Carolina facility committed to waste reduction and continuous environmental improvement is eligible to participate.

In the past three years, MPLX’s terminal has initiated energy conservation efforts that include upgrading a vapor recovery unit with physical and programmable logic changes that allow the system to operate on demand instead of continuously.

The terminal has also implemented an inspection program to monitor overfill probes on transport trailers. Through this program, the facility is able to prevent spills and the overfilling of tankers, while also preventing petroleum haulers from intentionally bypassing safety devices.

In addition, rainwater in the transport loading areas is collected and shipped to a reclamation/treatment facility to reclaim petroleum. Through this effort, the terminal has been able to reclaim more than 450,000 gallons of contaminated water.

The terminal is also active in its community though a “Good Neighbor” program. At this facility’s open house, the community is invited to see the terminal and learn more about its operations. Another program is the MPLX Philanthropy Program, through which grants were awarded to the Belton Fire Department and the Cheddar Fire Department. Belton Interfaith Ministries also received a grant to continue their work with inner city residents and those in need. The terminal also participates in emergency response drills with the local fire departments and county HAZMAT teams.

Congratulations to MPLX Terminals, LLC and its Belton terminal on its membership renewal in the SCEEP and for doing its part to be a leader for energy efficiency and a responsible environmental steward.

DHEC Helps South Carolinians Kick the Habit

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reminds smokers and tobacco users that the Great American Smokeout (GASO) on November 17 offers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of cessation resources available through the S.C. Tobacco Quitline.

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, GASO encourages smokers to quit for 24 hours and to make a plan for quitting permanently. DHEC’s S.C. Tobacco Quitline, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, can help South Carolinians with one-on-one telephone coaching, web-based and text message support, assistance developing a personalized quit plan, and free nicotine replacement therapy to eligible callers.

“For a decade, DHEC’s statewide Quitline has provided free tobacco treatment and cessation counseling services to nearly 100,000 tobacco users in South Carolina,” said Sharon Biggers, director of DHEC’s Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control. “Our agency is committed to promoting and protecting the health of all South Carolinians by helping tobacco users quit, preventing tobacco use and reducing the exposure to secondhand smoke.”

S.C. residents get free help

All South Carolinians who call the Quitline are guaranteed at least one free session with a trained quit coach and receive a Quit Kit. Callers who are uninsured, underinsured, are on Medicare or Medicaid, or are under age 18 are eligible for up to five free sessions with a quit coach, and pregnant/postpartum tobacco users can get up to 10 free sessions.  Online enrollment and 24/7 hours of operation have been introduced this year to increase accessibility.

“Anytime is a good time to quit, but the Great American Smokeout is the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf,” said Biggers. “Call today and quit for keeps.”

Smokers seeking assistance can reach the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), or for services in Spanish, call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569).

 10 Years of Quitline Success:

  • 110,841 calls received
  • 37% had no health insurance
  • 21% had Medicaid
  • 32% remained tobacco-free after 7-months
  • 52% were tobacco users with a chronic condition, such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, coronary artery disease or cancer
  • 45% had a co-occurring mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, or a substance use disorder

For more information on the S.C. Tobacco Quitline, visit the DHEC website.