Tag Archives: Department of Health and Environmental Control

Strive for a safer, healthier life in 2017

In 2017, be purposeful about changing habits, taking precautions and instituting preventive measures aimed at improving your health and quality of life. Making the right decisions could make 2017 your healthiest yet.

A few tips to consider

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you:

  • Be smokefree. If you are ready to quit, call 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). Read this blog post to learn more. For more information on the S.C. Tobacco Quitline, visit the DHEC website.
  • Protect yourself from injury or disease by wearing a helmet when biking, using sunscreen when outdoors and insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses.
  • Make an appointment for a check-up, vaccination or screening. Regular health exams and tests can help find problems early or even before they start.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water to prevent the spread of infection and illness.
  • Make healthy food choices. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts, and is low in saturated fats, transfats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
  • Be active to improve overall health. Exercise. Also, try simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.

More information is available

For more assistance in making 2017 your healthiest year yet, visit the CDC website.

Be sure to take preventative measures to avoid the flu

Make no mistake: The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season.

That said, it is also important to take other preventive measures to combat the flu as well.

DHEC encourages South Carolinians to:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work and school, as well as refrain from errands, if you are sick to help keep others from getting sick too.
  • 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 keep germs off of your hands and surfaces that you touch.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly to prevent the flu and many other diseases.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs easily enter the body and cause infection when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Please consider other habits to stay healthy year round, including getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

Visit DHEC’s website for more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you www.scdhec.gov/flu. You can also view the video below to learn more.

Handwashing: The ‘do-it-yourself vaccine’

With all the visiting that occurs during the holiday season, germs can quickly and easily pass from person to person. When it comes to protecting yourself and others and putting a stop to the spread of germs, don’t underestimate the power of handwashing.

On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to handwashing as a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and keep from spreading germs to others.

Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands.

So, when should you wash your hands? Here’s what the CDC says:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Visit the CDC’s website for more information on handwashing. Also, view the video below for instructions on how to effectively wash your hands.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

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

With the holiday season upon us, please include staying healthy among all the other plans you make for this time of year.  We are already two months into flu season; if you haven’t already done so: Get vaccinated against the flu.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, a timely reminder that your annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season — and throughout the year. Catching the flu during the holidays could be more than just an inconvenience; illness with the flu can be life-threatening.  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.

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. 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.

Why get 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.
  • Flu vaccines are very effective in protecting against several different strains of the flu that circulate each season when well matched to circulating flu strains.
  • While good hand washing practices are always recommended, they only provide temporary protection. Flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for at least six to eight months.
  • The flu vaccine is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work and school, as well as refrain from errands, if you are sick to help keep others from getting sick too.
  • 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 keep germs off of your hands and surfaces that you touch.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly to prevent the flu and many other diseases.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs easily enter the body and cause infection when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Please consider other habits to stay healthy year round, including getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

Visit DHEC’s website for more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you www.scdhec.gov/flu.

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: www.scdhec.gov/flu.