As the state’s public health department, one of our most important missions is to help health care workers, organizations and first responders prepare to effectively identify and safely respond to possible public health threats. While we hope that dangerous diseases such as Ebola never appear in South Carolina, we are constantly working collaboratively with our health care partners in every corner of the state to make sure we’re ready to respond quickly to these kinds of emerging public health concerns.
That’s why this week DHEC launched our new Health Preparedness Network (HPN) to help ensure that all individuals who might be touched by a public health emergency receive the latest, most accurate information and guidance to facilitate early detection and prevention of potential outbreaks in South Carolina. Unlike our existing Health Alert Network, which focuses only on updating health care providers, HPN allows first responders, health care providers, school employees, coroners and funeral home staff, and even members of the general public to sign up to receive real-time updates and guidance on an ongoing basis.
One of the major benefits of this new approach is that it allows DHEC to push out information more quickly and to a broader audience than ever before through one streamlined communications tool. Now DHEC will be able to reach the state’s entire healthcare infrastructure and first responders all at once, which will enable both health care workers and organizations to receive information as quickly as possible and make needed adjustments to their service delivery process immediately to safely care for potential patients.
Thank you to our Division of Acute Disease Epidemiology (DADE) and Public Health Preparedness (PHP) teams in central office and our regions who continue to work tirelessly to make sure that South Carolina is prepared to rapidly respond to potentially serious health threats like the Ebola virus. For more information about the new Health Preparedness Network or to sign up to receive updates, click here.
Recently, the CDC issued a recommendation that people traveling to 10 countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Israel, should get a polio vaccine or booster shot before visiting.
Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that public health workers have been trying to eradicate for over 60 years. Here in the U.S., we’re fortunate. Thanks to aggressive vaccination efforts, our country has been polio-free since 1979.
But with over a billion people crossing international borders each year, vaccine-preventable diseases rarely seen in South Carolina could make their way here. Recently, the World Health Organization declared the international spread of polio to be a public health emergency following 417 new cases of the disease in 2013.
CDC recommends anyone visiting Israel for longer than 4 weeks should get a polio vaccine or booster shot at least one month prior to traveling as a precaution.
Our Immunizations division recommends that anyone traveling out of the country should always visit the CDC’s travel website for updated information on vaccine recommendations by destination.
Stopping the spread of infectious diseases requires a rapid response by public health staff, as well as a willingness to coordinate efforts across geographic divides.
Last week, an alert was issued warning that as many as 5,000 people who visited a restaurant in Springfield, Missouri between May 8 and 16, might have been exposed to hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by a virus. People usually become sick within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent the virus from developing into hepatitis A infection.
Treatment consists of a two-dose vaccine. The first vaccine dose must be given within 14 days of exposure to be effective, which means those at risk need to be reached and treated quickly.
Earlier this week, two people visiting the South Carolina Lowcountry heard the news and realized they had dined at the restaurant in Missouri during the specified dates. They were approaching the end of the 14-day window to get a vaccine and called DHEC for help. Our Lowcountry Public Health immunization team quickly connected them with our epidemiology staff to perform an assessment.
After determining that the individuals should get vaccinated, our Lowcountry immunization team offered to provide the vaccinations during weekend hours, if necessary, to make sure treatment was received quickly. Both individuals received vaccines here in the Lowcountry and were able to carry on their visit with peace of mind.
Thank you to our Lowcountry Immunization and Epi Teams for your quick response and willingness to go the extra mile to help these individuals, who were far from home, access post-exposure hepatitis A treatment.
Hospital-associated infections continue to be a serious public health concern. A new study released by the CDC this week reveals that 4 percent of patients develop a new infection while hospitalized, 11 percent of which turn deadly.
Here at DHEC Public Health, we provide data surveillance and reports on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) to help health care organizations identify problems and track trends. Our healthcare-associated infections epidemiologist Kate Habicht does a great job overseeing this data collection and reporting to the 78 hospitals in South Carolina that are required to report this information under the Hospital Infections Disclosure Act (HIDA). Kate also provides support to the S.C. Hospital Association, which is the organization in our state that leads healthcare-associated infection prevention initiatives.
Each year, DHEC produces two reports on facility-specific HAIs that are distributed to hospitals and legislators, and is available to the general public on our website. These reports provide consumers and public health officials with a way to measure and compare South Carolina’s progress in preventing HAIs. They also help to promote better infection control practices across the state.
Special thanks to Kate for her hard work in monitoring and reporting HAIs. Her work is helping South Carolina health care providers identify ways to prevent these infections in the future.
Today is World TB Day, which provides the CDC and health departments across the country with an opportunity to raise awareness about tuberculosis–related challenges and solutions we’re implementing to prevent and control TB.
Worldwide, the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 people have been infected by the germ that causes TB. About 10% of people infected with the TB germ will develop the disease at some point in their lives.
Here in South Carolina, we’re fortunate that TB disease is rare. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in TB cases reported to DHEC. In 2013, there were 112 TB disease cases reported in South Carolina, which marks a sharp decline from the 233 cases reported in 2004.