DHEC in the News: DHEC Public Health Data App, King Tides, septic tanks

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

New DHEC site helps answer public health questions

COLUMBIA (WACH) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is introducing a new, innovative web portal to help answer public health questions.

DHEC’s County Health Profiles allows users to access state and county health data and compare data sets.

Citizen scientists watch for ’king tides’

WASHINGTON — The tide watchers start patrolling whenever the celestial forces align. From coast to coast, hundreds of tide watchers come out with their cameras to record the latest “king tides,” brief episodes of tidal flooding that could become the norm, with expected sea level rise.

King tides are a colloquial term for the highest tides of the year. They occur when the moon is closest to the earth at moments when the sun, moon and Earth are in alignment, increasing the gravitational forces at play.

A decade ago, few had heard of “king tides,” much less waded through them in galoshes. Now, Miami regularly floods. So do Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina, and other U.S. cities. And more than ever, groups of citizens are out there photographing the results, uploading the photos and debating what the future will bring.

DHEC grant will fix septic systems for more than 100 in Loris, Longs

LORIS, SC (WBTW) – A new grant will help Horry County officials improve water quality in parts of the county.

The Horry Soil and Water Conservation District received the grant from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The grant amounts to over $400,000 and, according to project manager Sam Ward, it will go towards fixing or replacing faulty septic systems.

This guide can help you prepare for severe winter weather

The official start of winter — December 21 — is not that far away. Are you and your family prepared for cold temperatures and winter storms?

After all, South Carolina isn’t immune to severe winter weather. That’s a fact that’s pointed out in the South Carolina Severe Weather Guide produced by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and the State Emergency Response Team.

The guide offers important information to help you prepare for winter weather. It provides tips on what you should know about snow and ice, what steps to take before, during and after a storm, emergency information, winter check lists and more.

Winter storms and cold weather can be hazardous. Be sure you are prepared.

Click here to download the Severe Winter Weather Guide.

DHEC in the News: Toy safety, flu, type 2 diabetes

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

Select safe, age-appropriate toys for a Merry Christmas

‘Tis the season for giving.

While Santa is preparing to bring tots the trendiest toys for Christmas, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control wants to remind parents that safety should be a top priority this holiday.

In 2016, there were more than 174,100 toy-related injuries – treated in the emergency room – associated with children younger than 15, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Physicians stress flu shots after two influenza deaths

Columbia, S.C. (WACH) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging South Carolinians to get their flu shot.

We are now in the thick of what officials call the “peak flu season”, between the months of December and February. It is the time frame where a good portion of influenza cases manifest.

Officials in the state are particularly concerned, after two deaths thus far this South Carolina flu season, according to DHEC stats. One of those deaths was in the Midlands, the other in the Upstate.

14 tips for preventing type 2 diabetes in children

Thirty years ago, type 2 diabetes was rare in children. Now, unfortunately, it is commonplace.

This is partially due to lifestyle choices where convenience has become the norm. Fast food is available on every corner, we don’t walk far for anything, and active outdoor playtime has given way to cellphones and tablets, video-game systems and TV screen time.

These unhealthy choices have led to endemic sedentary routines and a rise in weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many parents are aware of these issues but might find it difficult to figure out lasting solutions.

The 12 Days of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and as wonderful as the holidays are, it’s also the time of year when people tend to generate tons of waste. While reducing, reusing, and recycling should be practiced year-round, it is even more important during the holidays when our waste is plenteous.

DHEC is challenging you to put these 12 recycling and waste reduction tips to use this holiday season.

  1. Keep a waste-free kitchen by taking a look around to determine what you already have on hand before going shopping. Make a list of things you need before heading to the store. Compost or donate your unwanted food and recycle your cooking oil. Find other helpful tips at dhec.sc.gov/dontwastefoodsc.
  2. Have hard-to-recycle items? Consider only buying materials packaged in what can be recycled in your area. Find where and what you can recycle at www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Recycling.
  3. Give waste-less gifts like your time to clean someone’s house, piano or guitar lessons, gym memberships or certificates for pampering.newspaperwrap
  4. Most wrapping paper cannot be recycled, BUT you can reuse something to wrap with instead like paper bags, newspaper, maps or use reusable grocery bags, scarves or flower pots. Also reuse greeting cards to make gift tags.
  5. Stop the unwanted mail! Check out ecocycle.org/junkmail for six easy steps. Make sure to recycle mail with your paper as well.
  6. Prevent food waste this holiday by providing reusable containers or asking your guests to bring their own for leftovers.ledlights
  7. Use LED lights, which last 10 times longer and use 80 percent less energy. Recycle your old strings of lights. Find more information on hard-to-recycle items at scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Recycling/WhatCanIRecycle/.
  8. Go with an eco-deco theme by decorating with natural materials like greenery, gourds, fresh fruit and pine cones — all which can be composted after the holidays.
  9. Set up a collection corner at your party by providing an area where guests can bring unwanted items to swap or donate.
  10. Always let your guests know what can be recycled and composted. Clearly mark your bins and let guests know where they’re located.
  11. Provide a green dining experience by using dishes and silverware instead of disposables. If you need more dishes for guests, shop thrift stores to find festive ones.christmastree
  12. Grind those greens. If you decorated a real tree and are ready for it to go, remember to find out where your county will be accepting them for grinding.

It is important to keep in mind the importance of conserving your waste before, during, and after the holidays.

For more tips and information on recycling and waste reduction, visit the DHEC website.

Help keep the flu off the holiday party guest list: Get vaccinated

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

There’s nothing like all the hugs, kisses and displays of affection we’re sure to get from family and friends during various holiday parties, family gatherings and visits with friends and neighbors.

Unfortunately, all of that merrymaking can sometimes invite an unwelcomed guest: the flu.

No one wants the flu at any time, let alone during the holidays. The contagious disease can lead to hospitalization — and even death.

There’s still time to get your flu vaccine

If you haven’t done so, it’s not too late to get vaccinated and give yourself the gift that provides the best protection from the flu. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

Each flu season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict, making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

Although it is relatively early in this flu season, influenza activity in South Carolina at this point has been higher than normal.  The number of influenza-associated hospitalizations reported in individuals in the 65 years and older age group is nearly double the average number of cases reported over the past five flu seasons.

That is why vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for those 65 years and older, as well as other people who are at high risk of severe flu illness and serious complications from influenza. Other groups who are at high risk include children 5 and younger, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. But it’s important to remember that even healthy people who get the flu can have serious complications, like pneumonia, hospitalization or even death.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

This is National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 3-9), and there is no better time to remind not only older adults, but everyone to get their annual flu vaccine. It’s the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season — and throughout the year.

Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

Here’s why vaccination is important

There is no shortage of reasons for getting the vaccine:

  • The flu vaccine gives your body the ability to protect itself against the flu because you cannot predict when you might be exposed to someone who is ill. Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.
  • Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu.
  • While good hand washing practices are always recommended, they only provide limited protection. Flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for the entire flu season.
  • The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations and deaths.

Take preventive measures against the flu

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, 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. You can become infected by touching one of these areas after touching something that is covered in germs.

For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you, visit the DHEC website at www.scdhec.gov/flu.

Do your part to help keep the flu off the guest list this holiday season. Get vaccinated.