Category Archives: Disease Control

DHEC in the News: Teen birth rate, Charleston Water System’s 100th anniversary, rabies

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

Teen birth rate continues to drop in South Carolina

The teen birth rate in South Carolina continues to decline, new numbers published by the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy show.

Between 2015 and 2016, the teen birth rate in the state dropped by 9 percent. Last year, looking specifically at the 15- to 19-year-old cohort, an average 23.8 of every 1,000 females gave birth.

On 100th anniversary, Charleston Water System digs up a bit of its well water past

Charleston soon will mark a modern milestone: The 100th anniversary of the city’s owning its own water system.

To observe the October occasion, the Charleston Water System isn’t burying a time capsule but it has been digging one up.

1 person potentially exposed to rabies by cat in Greenville Co.

SIMPSONVILLE, SC (WSPA) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says that one person was potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease.

DHEC says that two stray cats were seen fighting before one turned on the victim, who was scratched.

World Rabies Day: Let’s #EndRabies

By Travis Shealy, DHEC Rabies Prevention Program Manager

World Rabies Day, September 28, is an international campaign that seeks to raise awareness about rabies in order to enhance prevention and control efforts. Rabies is a deadly virus that kills people, pets, and wildlife across the globe. Education and regular vaccinations are the key to #EndRabies.

What is Rabies?

RabiesMap

The SC Rabies Application provides statistics of rabies cases by county, species, and year. View rabies statistics across the state here

Rabies is a virus (Lyssavirus) that is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a person or animal. This usually occurs through a bite; however, saliva contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies. After exposure, the rabies virus infects cells in the central nervous system causing infection and inflammation in the brain and, ultimately, death.

Any mammal has the ability to carry and transmit the disease to humans or pets. The key to prevention is to stay away from wild and stray animals and keep your pets current on their rabies vaccinations! In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Keep in mind, pets are just as susceptible to the virus.

As of September 27, 2017, there have been 52 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. In 2016 there were 94 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide.

World Rabies Day Poster Contest

Join us in the fight to #EndRabies by keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Vaccinations not only protect your pets and livestock, they also protect you and your family from this deadly virus. (As part of our effort to increase awareness of rabies, we encourage you to participate in this year’s poster contest. You can view contest rules on our website. The winning World Rabies Day posters will be posted on Facebook and Flickr.)

RabiesPhoto

DHEC invites South Carolinians to create and submit posters to help raise awareness about rabies prevention for World Rabies Day. #EndRabies

Rabies Prevention

Another great way to safeguard against rabies is to always give wild and stray animals their space and to educate your children on the dangers of handling unknown animals. If you see a wild animal that appears sick, contact your local animal control office, police/sheriff’s department, pest control operator, or wildlife rescue/rehabilitation group for help. Never handle strays or wildlife, and make sure to keep them away from your family pets. You can learn more about rabies symptoms here.

RabiesPoster

Exposure to a rabid bat can easily be overlooked. Bat bites can go unnoticed because they have such small teeth. Often people – especially children – don’t realize they’ve been bitten. If you find a bat in a room, tent, or cabin where someone has been sleeping or find a bat where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended, always assume a bite occurred. Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets, or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container for rabies testing. Contact your local DHEC Environmental Health Services office to report the incident.

Reporting Possible Rabies Exposure

If you’re bitten or scratched by an animal, care for the wound properly and contact your health care provider immediately. The health care provider is required by the Rabies Control Act to report the incident to DHEC.

If your child is bitten, scratched, or otherwise exposed and you do not seek medical treatment for the wound, you are required by the Rabies Control Act to report the bite to DHEC by the end of the following business day. Contact information for the Environmental Health Services office in your area can be found on our map.

For more information on rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies.

World Rabies Day is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). To see GARC’s press release on its Zero by 30 campaign (zero human deaths from rabies by 2030), please visit rabiesalliance.org/news/towards-rabies-free-world.

Rid Your Property Of Standing Water To Combat Mosquitoes

Standing water caused by rain and flooding can be prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can spread harmful diseases such as West Nile, Zika and more.

Be sure to inspect areas around your homes and businesses and take to reduce mosquito populations and lessen the chance of you or others being exposed to these pesky, and potentially harmful, insects.

Below are some steps you can take to rid areas of mosquito breeding grounds.

Eliminate places where mosquitoes breed

One of the most important steps in controlling mosquitoes is to identify all of the places where water can accumulate on your property and eliminate them as possible breeding grounds.

  • Empty and turn over containers that hold water such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheel barrows, old appliances, plastic sheeting or tarps used to cover objects like grills or swimming pools, etc.
  • Remove debris from gutters.
  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes, especially those under a driveway. Make sure water does not stand inside or near the ends of the pipe.
  • Clean out rain gutters and downspouts regularly.
  • Drain or fill any low places, such as potholes, on your property where water collects and stands for more than five to seven days.
  • Make sure that all permanent water containers such as wells, septic tanks, cisterns, water tanks and cesspools are tightly covered and insect-proof.
  • Fix leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Cover trash containers/garbage cans to keep rainwater from accumulating.
  • Keep boats and canoes drained and covered/overturned.
  • Drain or get rid of old tires by recycling them.
  • Pack tree holes and hollow stumps with sand or cement.

Avoid mosquito bites and possible exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses.

  • Apply EPA-approved insect repellent to protect you during time spent outdoors.
  • Repair damaged or broken doors and screens.
  • Wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves and long pants.
  • Close garage doors at night.

If you have mosquito problems in your area, visit DHEC’s mosquito information page and click on “Local Mosquito Control” in the menu box for a list of local mosquito control agency contacts.

Learn more about eliminating mosquito breeding sites and preventing mosquito bites at the DHEC website.

DHEC in the News: West Nile, prescription drug arrest, Irma impact

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

Second West Nile virus case confirmed in Rock Hill resident

A second case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in a Rock Hill resident, according to York County Emergency Management. …

To prevent mosquito exposure, the health department recommends residents …

Myrtle Beach dental assistant charged with obtaining prescription drugs illegally while on the job

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A dental assistant was arrested Monday for allegedly obtaining prescription sedatives unlawfully while on the job.

According to online records from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center, Kathleen Capra, 48, was charged with theft of controlled substances.

General Interest

Irma spurs resurgence in allergy season, mosquito breeding

SOUTH CAROLINA (WSAV) – It’s been just over a week since Irma hit the Lowcountry, but many are left dealing with health concerns and irritants from the storm.

Dr. Jaime Lagos says Irma has left a trifecta of troubles for some allergy sufferers.

“The weed pollen has been stirred up to very large levels, and therefore they’re getting a lot more weed pollen,” Dr. Lagos says, “And on top of that, we have a lot more moisture which is causing the mold spores to reproduce at much higher levels.”

Add that to elm pollen, and it can make any post-storm cleanup unbearable.

Mosquitoes are another irritant causing issues after the storm.

Benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

Thanks to vaccinations, diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rare in the United States. Some physicians rarely — if ever — treat a case of measles.

That’s what makes vaccination one of the most successful public health accomplishments of the 20th century. It reduces the spread of disease and prevents complications and deaths.

But that success does not mean that the diseases vaccines help prevent are no longer a threat.

Although we have seen significant reductions in – even the elimination of – certain diseases, there were nearly 7,800 reports of vaccine-preventable diseases in South Carolina in 2016.  Of 238 disease outbreak investigations the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control conducted last year, 29 percent were influenza outbreaks.

Many of those flu cases occurred in schools and nursing homes, which serve people who often have complications from the flu.  The age groups with the highest rates of hospitalizations for flu included children ages 4 and younger and individuals older than 65. Unfortunately, 94 deaths from the flu have been reported in South Carolina during the 2016-17 flu season, which ends the end of September.

We also continue to see cases of whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, hepatitis A and B and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and they will increase unless we get more people vaccinated. The number of people receiving vaccines in South Carolina and the U.S. has declined in recent years.

Still, the fact remains that vaccines protect entire populations from multiple diseases. But questions remain.

Are vaccines effective? While no vaccine offers 100 percent protection, they are extremely effective.

How well a vaccine prevents illness varies based on the type of vaccine and the individual’s health status.  For example, the flu vaccine does not protect the elderly as well as it protects younger people. However, studies suggest that elderly people vaccinated against the flu have less severe disease, are less likely to be hospitalized and are less likely to die from the flu.

While there can be adverse effects from vaccines, severe adverse events are rare and occur far less often than complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. Although questions have been raised about whether there is a relationship between autism and vaccines, research does not show any such link.

Do vaccines have risks? Yes, vaccines — like all medications — have potential risks that must be weighed against the benefits. The risks are quite low and are comparable to those associated with prescription and over-the-counter medication.  The benefits are significant in protecting the public health and in cost-savings.  Ask your health care provider about what vaccines are best for you as well as potential risks based on your health factors.

In July the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics published a study showing that a 5 percent decrease in the number of children ages 2 to 11 vaccinated against the measles in the United States could triple the number of measles cases in that group and significantly increase the cost of controlling disease outbreaks. Of great concern is that the article reveals that several regions in the country are just above the level of vaccine coverage needed to prevent measles outbreaks.  If vaccination levels drop further, we could see a sharp rise in measles cases, one of the most highly contagious diseases known.

We continue to see preventable illness, hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths in South Carolina from influenza, whooping cough, meningitis, hepatitis B, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Every year U.S. travelers are infected after being exposed to diseases while abroad. Infected people can begin spreading a disease before they show symptoms. Numerous outbreaks have occurred in communities with low vaccination rates.

DHEC is working to increase vaccine coverage in South Carolina by enhancing partnerships with other vaccine providers, offering vaccines in schools and communities, improving technology that tracks vaccinations and simplifies access to immunization certificates, and — most importantly — educating people about the risk of diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.

While vaccines help prevent the spread of disease, their effectiveness relies on people being vaccinated. That’s where you can help. It is important that everyone – not just children – get immunized.

We have had great success combating diseases through vaccination. Let’s not lose ground now.