Tag Archives: monitor

DHEC in the News: Rooftop air pollution sensors, National Health Security Preparedness Index, Isle of Palms renourishment project

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

Rooftop sensors on U.S. embassies are warning the world about ‘crazy bad’ air pollution

In October 2010, as heavy smog hung over Beijing, the U.S. embassy’s Twitter feed said its rooftop pollution sensor had detected “crazy bad” levels of hazardous microparticles. So-called PM2.5 had shot up to about 550 micrograms per cubic meter—a level to which programmers had given the sardonic label because they thought it would never be reached. …

By now, rooftop sensors like those that drew attention to Beijing’s pollution sprout from 26 diplomatic posts in 16 countries. Their immediate goal is to protect the health of U.S. diplomats. But they are raising concerns about air pollution from Sarajevo to New Delhi and supplying data to research efforts. The “little-air-monitor-that-could,” as physicist and former U.S. diplomat David Roberts calls it, has become a worldwide watchdog. …

Findings are radiating into other disciplines. During a stint at the U.S. consulate in São Paulo, Brazil, Tommy Flynn, a program manager with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, is providing technical assistance on the monitors.

General Interest

Is the U.S. Prepared for a Public Health Emergency?

The National Health Security Preparedness Index shows that overall, the United States’ day-to-day readiness for managing a public health crisis last year improved by 11 percent since the index’s first iteration in 2013, scoring a 7.1 on a 10-point scale. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia also boosted their overall health security in the last year, with Maryland scoring an 8.0 to outpace all other states.

“Threats to America’s health security are on the rise, but so is our nation’s preparedness to deal with these emergencies,” Dr. Alonzo Plough, chief science officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a press release. “The Index shows how prepared public and private stakeholders are to tackle health security challenges and sheds light on areas for improvement.”

Isle of Palms gets $1.3 million federal grant to restore sand taken by Tropical Storm Irma

The sand that Tropical Storm Irma washed away from Isle of Palms has been restored, and the federal government just kicked in $1.3 million to help foot the bill.

The city had been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the storm struck late last year, and the city hoped to save money by piggybacking off of earlier renourishment work.

Keeping watch over flu activity is critical to limiting its damage

Flu seasons such as the one South Carolina and the nation have been enduring reminds us why it is so important to monitor flu activity.

Severe flu seasons can be devastating, and even milder influenza seasons cause missed work and school time, hospitalizations and deaths.

Keeping an eye on diseases

Each year, DHEC and U.S. public health experts monitor influenza and other diseases. This activity is called disease surveillance.

Surveillance of influenza plays a big role in understanding the spread of the disease, as well as the severity of potential epidemics. Although surveillance can tell us the trend of influenza illness in South Carolina, it cannot tell us exactly how many cases of flu there are in the state.  This is because not everyone who gets the flu goes to the doctor to get tested, and we have no way of monitoring unreported cases of flu.

Flu surveillance allows DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see what impact flu is having on the health of residents. In South Carolina, influenza surveillance consists of several components. Each component provides different types of information about influenza; together, they create a solid overview of influenza activity in the state.

The benefits of surveillance

Surveillance helps us to:

  • Understand which new flu viruses are circulating in South Carolina (The types of influenza virus that infect people often change from one flu season to the next.);
  • Establish when the influenza virus first appears in the state and also when it decreases;
  • Determine where in the state the influenza virus is circulating; and
  • Understand what types of vaccines are most likely to succeed the following year.

DHEC produces a weekly summary of reported influenza activity in South Carolina in a report called Flu Watch. Visit the DHEC website for more information and the latest update of Flu Watch. Also, visit the CDC’s website for national statistics on flu.

Protect yourself

DHEC and CDC recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine, because it is the best way to combat the flu. It is also important to take other preventive actions, such as limiting contact with sick people and washing your hands frequently.