Category Archives: Chronic Disease

DHEC in the News: HIV treatment, swim advisories, WIC in Orangeburg

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Stigma preventing thousands with HIV from seeking treatment in SC

(Greenwood, SC – Index Journal) With modern treatment, HIV is no longer a death sentence, but McLendon said the shame surrounding the virus is more deadly than the disease itself. As of 2015, 18,340 people in South Carolina had been diagnosed with HIV, but about 6,235 of them had not received any form of treatment, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. [Elizabeth] McLendon said because many people live with the virus without knowing it or are never formally diagnosed, the number of people not receiving treatment is likely higher. Particularly in rural areas, such as Greenwood County — where there were about 82 people diagnosed with HIV as of 2014, according to AIDS VU — McLendon said the actual number of infected people is likely much larger.

Swim advisory issued for Saluda River because of sewage discharge

(Lexington County, SC – The State) An official swim advisory was issued Sunday, after water quality tests from portions of the Saluda River, near Saluda Shoals Park, showed high levels of bacteria, the Congaree Riverkeeper said Sunday.

The state standard for bacteria is 349, and the sample taken from the river Saturday registered 980.4, Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler said. Such levels could make swimmers ill.

A wastewater discharge from the Friarsgate Wastewater Treatment facility late last week resulted in the increased bacteria level in the water, the riverkeeper said. State health officials had issued a caution to swimmers earlier in the weekend before a formal advisory was issued Sunday with results of water quality tests.

Sewage spill doesn’t stop summer fun at Catawba River

(Rock Hill, SC – The Herald) As of Saturday, Landsford Canal State Park, a popular recreational area in South Carolina about 45 miles south of Charlotte, had posted advisories against boating, wade fishing and swimming in the water, the Charlotte Observer reported. The advisories are posted at the entrance to the park as well as bathrooms and fence posts.

A notice was also posted at the Catawba Indian Nation landing, according to DHEC.

The department states: “DHEC has performed modeling which indicates that the spill should pass downstream of the Landsford Canal and Catawba Indian Reservation landings by Monday evening. Based on this information, we will be able to recommend removal of the notices Wednesday morning.”

An update on the Habersham boil water advisory

An advisory for Habersham residents to boil their water was lifted on Friday.

The precautionary advisory was issued on Thursday by the Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to a BJWSA news release sent out late Friday afternoon. The groups announced on Friday that the latest water sample analyses showed the water in the area was free from bacteria and is safe to consume.

Head Start making impact; OCAB director seeking to enroll more children

(Orangeburg, SC – Times & Democrat) Head Start…participates in USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which provides increased access to foods grown from local farmers.

“We applied for those funds to actually purchase fresh fruits and vegetables (from local farmers) to feed the kids. And it’s more to it than that. Children will learn that corn doesn’t come in a can, but they actually learn how food is grown. It helps the local economy, too,” Wright said, noting that children actually participate in food preparation by planting seeds and watching fruits and vegetables grow in their classrooms.

Stroman said the state Department of Health and Environmental Control has implemented a nutrition initiative within the Head Start program. Children are given nutrition lessons and activities, some of which are sent home to parents.

“We also have a certified dietician and nutritionist that approves all of our menus so that they are aligned with the USDA requirements and good healthy eating patterns,” she said.

Stroman said the Head Start program is also partnering with the state DHEC’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office to have mobile units come out to its sites to make sure parents’ WIC certifications stay up to date.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver Month

By Michele James
S.C. Dept. of Health & Environmental Control
Division of Healthy Aging

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver Month. Given the close relationship between the two observances — many with Alzheimer’s are fortunate to have committed caregivers — it seems natural for them to occur during the same month.

Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s

The Division of Healthy Aging is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and evidence-based messages about risk reduction.

From 2000 to 2010, South Carolina’s older adult population grew by 32.1 percent, putting the state in the top 10 fastest growing older adult populations.  South Carolina has the 6th highest Alzheimer’s disease rate in the nation.  In 2015, 17.3 percent of South Carolinians 65 and older had Alzheimer’s  disease; by 2025 the percentage will go up to 48.1 percent.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, a general term used to describe various diseases and conditions that damage brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Other types include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. In some cases, a person may have more than one type and are said to have mixed dementia.

The most important risk factors — age, family history and heredity — can’t be changed, but emerging evidence suggests there may be other factors we can influence. Research has found the health of the brain is very closely tied to the health of the body, particularly the heat.  They have found conclusively that high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity all confer greater risk for cognitive decline. However, evidence also suggests that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.

‘Take Care to Give Care’

November is National Caregivers month and the theme is “Take Care to Give Care.” There are 90 million caregivers in the United States who provide full-time or part-time care for someone with an illness, injury or disability. Caregiving has its rewards, but it can be physically and emotionally taxing.

Meeting the needs of others can mean that caregivers neglect their own wellness by not getting adequate rest or proper nutrition. Studies show caregivers are twice as likely as the general population to develop chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes asthma and other health problems due of prolonged stress.

So this November let us take the time to show our appreciation for caregivers and encourage them to take care of themselves.  Here are some things caregivers can do to relieve stress and look out for themselves:

  • Work hard to maintain personal interests, hobbies and friendships.
  • Allow yourself not be the perfect caregiver. Set reasonable expectations to lower stress.
  • Delegate some caregiving tasks to other reliable people.
  • Take a break. Short breaks, like an evening walk or relaxing bath are essential.
  • Don’t ignore signs of illness. Take Care to Give Care!

For more information/resources on caregiving, please visit:

For specific information on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease visit the SC Alzheimer’s Association Chapter at or call the toll free number 1-800-272-3900.

Also, please visit the Alzheimer Association Training and Education Center to find free online courses

Caring for a Child with Sickle Cell Disease

By Malerie Hartsell, MPH, CHES, DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs Program

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) affects many South Carolinians across the state who either have the disease or care for someone with SCD who needs their assistance. DHEC employee Brenda Green knows all too well the impact that SCD has had on her life and the life of her son, Braden.

Brenda is an environmental engineer with the Bureau of Water in the Domestic Wastewater Permitting Section. Ever since her family was informed of her son’s SCD diagnosis, she has been a champion and advocate for Braden and his health.

To help raise awareness during National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, Brenda did a Q&A interview with DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs program to share a small piece of her SCD story and how the disease has impacted her family.

 Q:  Tell us about your son, Braden Green.

A:  Braden is 10 years old and in the 5th grade at Satchel Ford Elementary School. He loves school and his favorite subject is math.  He loves to draw, paint and create art.  He plays the piano, drums and just began the strings program at school where he will play the cello.  He loves ALL sports but plays little league baseball.  He knows the stats on almost all baseball, football and basketball teams and their star players.  He’s a really smart and sweet kid.

Q: You and your husband have three children, and your son has sickle cell disease. What are some things you have to be mindful about when raising and caring for Braden that you don’t necessarily worry about with your other children?

A:  I’m more mindful about a lot of things in comparison to his big sisters. It was more difficult during the first years of his life.  He wasn’t able to tell me where it hurts and how the pain felt.  I had to wonder, when he was an infant, whether he was crying because he was hungry, teething or having sickle cell pain.

Now that he is older, we use the number scale for pain that is used in the hospital (1-10 with 10 being the worst).  He can also tell me if it’s a sharp, dull or burning pain. I have to make sure he’s hydrated especially when he’s playing or practicing baseball.

I have to make sure he understands that he has to wash his hands and try to keep his hands from his face. Germs are not our friends at all times.  The common cold can be very dangerous to him.  He is most susceptible to pneumonia and has been hospitalized several times because of it.

I have to make sure he’s not too cold in the winter or too warm in the summer.  Even though it’s warm now, I make sure he takes his jacket to school just in case the classroom is cold.  Extreme temperatures can cause pain crises for him.

I worry about him at birthday parties, especially if they are running and playing.  He gets tired quicker than the average child but he will push himself if he’s not reminded to rest.  This is the same with him playing sports.  I’m also more mindful of the types of sports he plays.

Q:  What have you found to be the most helpful for your family since finding out Braden has SCD?

A: The most helpful thing that my husband and I have found is to be very observant of him and his symptoms and to make sure we’re responsible when it comes to his medical care.  We call his pediatrician if we are concerned and we make sure he attends all routine appointments.  It’s important that we continue to learn as much as we can about SCD and be very proactive with his care.

The pain level chart, I reference earlier, has been very helpful to us.  We now understand his pain tolerance better.  He can function normally until his pain is a 5.  At that point, he will take more frequent breaks and may ask for his heating pad.  Usually a pain of 8 or greater requires pain medication.  If we’re unable to control his pain at home, then it requires medical attention.

 Q: Braden has been attending Camp Burnt Gin for several summers. What has that experience been like for him and for your family?

A:  The experience has been wonderful.  He has made friends and has enjoyed being with other children who battle the same disease as him.  It’s his opportunity to relax and have fun without mommy hovering close.  My husband and I are happy that he can go to an overnight camp where he can have fun, experience the camp life just like the healthy kids and all the while at a safe location with his hematologist, Dr. Carla and his nurse, Nurse Julia on site.  What more could we ask for?


Braden and Dr. Carla at Camp Burnt Gin, a summer camp in Wedgefield, SC for children with physical disabilites or chronic illnesses.

Q:  What advice would you give to other parents who have just learned their child has SCD?

A: Be encouraged and know that your child is so special and will teach you the true meaning of resilience and strength.  Use your resources.  Your child’s hematologist, pediatricians, nurses and other caregivers are all there to help your child and your family battle this disease.  Learn as much as you can. Document all that you learn and ask questions.

Finally, never, I mean never, be afraid or hesitant to be the main advocate for your child.  Through you being your child’s advocate you will teach your child to be able to advocate for themselves as they get older.

For more information on DHEC’s Children with Special Health Care Needs division, visit


Why You Need to Know About Hepatitis

By Linda Brown, MPH, DHEC Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator

May is National Viral Hepatitis Awareness Month and, on May 19, South Carolina joins the nation in observing Hepatitis Testing Day. That day is set aside to emphasize the importance of being tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is estimated that between 70,000 and 85,000 people in South Carolina are living with chronic hepatitis C. According to the CDC, HCV killed more than 20,000 Americans in 2014.

What you don’t know can hurt

Because many people who are infected with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection, and it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it has caused advanced liver disease, getting tested is vitally important to curing and preventing the spread of this disease.

More than three million Americans in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis C, but as many as 50 percent don’t know they are infected.

This often silent but potentially deadly virus infects the liver, and most people can live with the infection for many years without feeling sick. By the time a person shows symptoms, they are often in an advanced stage of liver disease, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Am I at risk?

Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Take the CDC’s simple risk assessment to help determine if you  should seek testing:

Adobe Photoshop PDF

One of the main groups that need to be tested for Hepatitis C are baby boomers – people who were born from 1945-1965. Seventy-five percent of people with hepatitis C were born during these years, so it is recommended that all baby boomers be tested at least one time in their lives, regardless of any other risk factors.

Another priority group that should get tested is anyone who has ever injected drugs into their body.

There’s a cure

New medications are available that are highly effective that can provide a cure within eight to 12 weeks. This is why DHEC staff, in collaboration with community partners, encourage people to talk to their health care provider about their risk for HCV.

Be #HepAwareARE YOU AT RISK? Millions of Americans have VIRAL HEPATITIS. Most don't know it. Take this online assessment to see if you're at risk.

Learn more about HCV, take the risk assessment quiz and talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatment. Getting a simple blood test is a vital first step into knowing if you have hepatitis C and getting care and treatment if you need it. Visit




Lung Cancer Awareness

By Sonya Younger, MBA, DHEC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control 


In the United States, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, even though an extensive list of modifiable risk factors has long been identified. Approximately 4,040 South Carolinians will be diagnosed with lung cancer and an estimated 2,970 will die from the disease in 2015.  While smoking is, by far, the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, it is a disease that can affect anyone, so it is important for everyone to know the risks and look out for your health.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Tobacco use is the number one cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing 90 percent of all lung cancer, and it is completely preventable. No matter what your age or how long you have smoked, quitting now will make a difference in your health that you can feel. If you or someone you know would like to quit smoking, call the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). For services in Spanish, call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569).

Although lung cancer’s predominant cause is tobacco smoking, there are other causes as well. Radon, for example, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the U.S. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment and can seep into homes and buildings. To avoid exposure, it is a great idea to test your home for radon. Click here to order a free radon testing kit from DHEC.

The quality of the air you breathe can make a difference in your risk of lung cancer, so it is important to be mindful about the environment where you live and work and avoid exposure to carcinogen pollutants. Substances such as arsenic, asbestos, chromates, nickel, and other air-borne agents have been known to contribute to lung cancer. Outdoor air pollution, including smog and CO2 emissions from vehicles, is also a factor that can affect your lung health and contribute to lung cancer risk.

Guidelines for Screening

According to the American Cancer Society, patients who meet all of the following criteria may be candidates for lung cancer screening:

  • 55 to 74 years old
  • In fairly good health
  • Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history
  • Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years

Patients should talk with their doctors about the benefits, limitations, and potential harms of lung cancer screening.

For more information about lung cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society’s website.