Tag Archives: Hurricane Matthew

DHEC in the News: West Nile Virus, Infant Sleep Safety, Mt. Pleasant Water, Assisted Living Facility

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

Hurricane Matthew continues to leave its mark on Beaufort County with West Nile cases

(Beaufort, SC – Island Packet) Just two human cases of the West Nile virus have ever been confirmed in Beaufort County — both within eight months of Hurricane Matthew.

Gregg Hunt, Beaufort County Mosquito Control director, said the timing of the events is no coincidence.

“Hurricane Matthew has played a major role in what we’re seeing,” Hunt said.

“After Hurricane Matthew, a lot of debris had fallen into standing water caused by the flooding and tidal waves,” he said. “And organic material decaying in the water produces an ideal breeding ground for that kind of mosquito (that carries West Nile) … That’s what set the tone after the hurricane.”

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According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, about 1 in 5 people who are infected with the West Nile virus will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. These people likely will have a full recovery, but fatigue and weakness could last for weeks or months.

Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to the release.

Mom’s heartbreaking Facebook post raises awareness about safe sleeping conditions for babies

(Greenville, SC – FOX Carolina) According to DHEC, 194 babies died between 2009 and 2015 in South Carolina due of unsafe sleeping conditions, making this the third leading cause of infant deaths in the state.

“This cause of death is 100 percent preventable,” said Michelle Greco, manager of the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Greenville Health System.

Greco says babies under 1 year of age should sleep in a crib or bassinet with a fitted sheet and a firm mattress.

“Anytime that an infant under the first year of life is put down to sleep it needs to be treated the same,” said Greco, “They need to be alone with no other people, pets or objects.”

Mt. Pleasant residents ‘trying to have faith’ as they wait on results of DHEC water tests

(Mt. Pleasant, SC – ABC News4)  Several people living in Mount Pleasant want answers to concerns over water quality, and DHEC is now doing something about it.

Tuesday, workers were in Mount Pleasant testing water samples. It’s all part of an effort to find out if there is something in the water that could pose a health hazard.

DHEC samples were taken from three houses in the Mount Pleasant area. Officials with Mount Pleasant Waterworks said they chose those areas because of recent concerns.

Charleston assisted living facility where woman was killed by nearby alligator could face enforcement from DHEC

(Charleston, SC – Post and Courier) …Department of Health and Environmental Control investigators found [Brookdale Charleston] staff did not follow their own guidelines to conduct night checks on [Bonnie] Walker, a plan put in place when she had wandered off before. She had left the facility days prior “looking to go home,” and staff decided she needed to be housed in a memory care unit.

Now Brookdale Charleston could be facing enforcement action from DHEC. Representatives of the facility met with state officials June 13. A spokesman for DHEC said the two parties are “working on finalizing a consent order.” Brookdale declined to comment on the matter.

Such meetings are an opportunity for a facility to present any evidence of their own, said Pam Dukes, formerly a health regulator with DHEC. It would be “very unusual” for the negotiation not to end in enforcement, Dukes explained, which could mean a fine or a license suspension.

For more health and environmental news, check Live Healthy SC regularly.

Facing Down Mosquitoes after a Hurricane

Rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew left many areas of South Carolina saturated with standing water — prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are cold-blooded and do not thrive in cooler temperatures, so cold snaps in the weather can help reduce the likelihood of excessive mosquito breeding.  But don’t leave it to chance; do your part to reduce mosquito populations and lessen the chance of your family being exposed to these pesky, and potentially harmful, insects.

This isn’t just about the bothersome itch a mosquito’s bite might cause; the insect can carry harmful diseases, including Zika, West Nile and more.

Rid your home of places where mosquitoes breed

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. One of the most important steps in controlling them 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.

Animals Displaced By Hurricane Matthew Could Pose Danger

Animals are no different from humans when it comes to evacuating their homes during disasters such as hurricanes. But wild and stray animals displaced during a disaster can become disoriented and a danger during — and after the ordeal.

As South Carolina continues to recover from Hurricane Matthew, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reminds residents to use caution if they encounter a wild or stray animal.

“Wildlife may have been displaced from their normal habitats due to flooding and wind damage to nesting and feeding areas. As such, these animals may be in areas closer to humans. You may also see more stray animals as pets may have become separated from their owners. To help prevent injuries from bites and scratches and to avoid potential rabies exposures, always play it safe and give animals their space, particularly wild and stray animals.” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.

If you have a question or concern about possible exposure to an animal, please contact DHEC’s Environmental Health Services central office at 803-896-0640.

Protect your pets – and yourself

As a general reminder, keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family and your pets from this fatal disease.

“Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body, usually through a bite, or contact with an open wound or areas such as the mouth or eyes,” said Craig.

Hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, due to exposure to a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

There have been 80 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2015, South Carolina reported 130 confirmed rabid animal cases.

Keep your distance

Please avoid contact with stray domestic or wild animals. Instead of trying to catch or rescue them, call for trained, professional help such as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Visit the DHEC website for more information on rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office.  You also can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage.

A Few Things You Should Know About Boiling Water

With many areas throughout the state currently under boil water advisories, here are some tips to keep your water safe.

Boiling Water for Drinking

  • Fill a pot with water.
  • Heat the water until bubbles come from the bottom of the pot to the top.
  • Once the water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for 1 minute.
  • Turn off the heat source and let the water cool.
  • Pour the water into a clean container with a cover for storage.

Visit the DHEC website for more information on boil water emergencies and to get updates on boil water advisories as well as emergency guidelines for businesses. You can also find information on food and water safety on the agency website.

Private Wells

If you have a private well that was flooded (water entered the well from the surface of the ground) during the flooding and rain from Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina, your well water could be contaminated. To ensure your private well water is safe to drink, you can have it tested for coliform bacteria.

DHEC is waiving testing fees for private wells. This only applies to wells in counties impacted by flooding and only for bacteriological testing. Residents with questions about private wells should call (803) 898-4312.

You must disinfect before you collect a sample. Disinfect your well and wait seven to 10 days before you collect a sample. Disinfection instructions can be found on our website at Emergency Well Disinfection. Sampling kits for private wells can be obtained from over 60 DHEC locations across the state and local Health Departments. Visit DHEC Locations to find contact information.

Returning Home after a Hurricane

Although Hurricane Matthew has moved on, it left behind potential dangers South Carolinians must avoid. In the days immediately following a hurricane, serious concerns often remain about flooding, power outages, and health and safety.

DHEC urges you to take precautions as you encounter potential dangers relating to water safety, food safety, animals and insects and a variety of other concerns.

Some people might not be able to return home immediately. Do not attempt to re-enter your neighborhood until authorities have declared the area safe.

We want you to return home safely. Here are some general tips and resources for clean-up when you do:

Clean-Up After the Hurricane

  • Throw away any toys that have touched floodwater.
  • During clean-up, wear gloves and regularly wash hands in clean water (boiled if from private well or under a boil water advisory/notice) with soap.
  • Once all water has been drained from your home, if you are concerned about water damage or mold, call a professional in your area. See the Yellow Pages under Mold Remediation or Water Damage Restoration.
  • You can make a cleaning disinfectant from one cup of bleach combined with five gallons of clean, boiled water. Try to clean any walls, floors or furniture that may have had contact with floodwaters.
  • Upholstered furniture and mattresses should be air dried in the sun and sprayed with disinfectant, if possible.  Steam clean rugs and replace filters in ventilation systems. Flooded items that cannot be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

Smell Gas?

  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main valve, open all windows, and get out of the house immediately.
  • Do not turn on the electricity, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark.
  • Immediately notify the gas company as well as your local fire and police departments.
  • Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Handling Electrical Damage

  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
  • You should follow the instruction provided by your utility company or emergency preparedness agency about using electrical equipment, including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices.
  • If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home’s electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area. Make sure all electrical equipment and appliances are completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.

Mosquitoes

Protect yourself against mosquitoes that show up heavy rain and might carry viruses: Wear long-sleeved clothing and avoid being outdoors during dusk and dawn. If you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, applying a mosquito repellent – either a spray or wipe – to your skin or clothing will help protect you from bites.  Just make sure to use products containing one of the four active ingredients that have been registered and approved as safe and effective by the EPA.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Be sure to rid your property of standing water; empty and turn over any containers around your home that hold water.

More resources for returning home and safety are available on DHEC’s website.

For updates on DHEC hurricane response efforts and updates, visit www.scdhec.gov/HurricaneMatthew.