Tag Archives: mosquito-borne illnesses

It’s spring: Protect yourself and your family against mosquitoes

After yet another warm winter in South Carolina, spring is upon us — and so is mosquito season.

As you and your family head outside, remember that now is the time to begin taking action to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquitoes — even if mosquitoes are the unofficial state bird!

Mosquitoes can spread diseases

South Carolina is home to at least 61 different species of mosquitoes. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time has faced this itch-causing menace on an almost daily basis during the spring, summer and fall. Most of the time, we are only concerned with the pain from the mosquito’s bite, but we also need to be aware that mosquitoes can spread diseases that may result in illness.

Some mosquitoes in South Carolina have been known to carry West Nile virusEastern Equine Encephalitis, and other viruses or parasites. Since the beginning of 2016, there has been heightened concern over the Zika virus. Fortunately, there have been no confirmed local Zika cases caused by South Carolina mosquitoes. All known cases of Zika in our state, to date, have been travel or sexual contact related.

You can help control the mosquito population

It is critical that we all join forces and do our part to combat the threat of mosquito-borne viruses and parasites. We must be vigilant about controlling the mosquito population in our own yards and communities while protecting ourselves from bites. You can begin by removing, regularly emptying or filling in any objects in your yard or home that might hold water in order to eliminate breeding sites. When searching for mosquito breeding spots on your property, leave no stone unturned.

To help reduce mosquito populations on your property:

  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Regularly clean out rain gutters and downspouts.cleaning-gutters
  • Empty and turn over containers that hold water, such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheelbarrows, old appliances, tarps used to cover grills or swimming pools, etc. Don’t forget to scrub containers to remove any mosquito eggs that remain attached to the walls (Tip, Toss, Turn and Scrub!).
  • Make sure that all permanent water containers — such as wells, septic tanks, cisterns, water tanks and cesspools — are tightly covered and insect-proof.
  • Change the water in bird baths and empty and clean out children’s wading pools at least once a week.
  • Clean out and change the water in your pet’s water bowl or trough every day.
  • Clean out larger livestock troughs weekly.
  • Cover trash containers and garbage cans to keep rainwater from accumulating.
  • Drain or get rid of old tires by recycling them.

When outside, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts (the lighter in color, the better). You may also choose to apply a mosquito repellent — either a spray or wipe — per manufacturer instructions to help shield you. Avoid wearing perfume or scented products. Also, keep car windows rolled up and garage doors closed at night. Ensure all of your windows and doors have intact screens and seal properly.

Learn more

Visit DHEC’s mosquito information page for additional information about protecting yourself from mosquito bites, eliminating breeding areas, local mosquito control and more.

DHEC encourages South Carolinians to take precautions against Zika at home and abroad

As springtime approaches, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging residents to take precautions now at home or while traveling to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika.

Many South Carolinians are preparing for trips abroad, whether it be for spring break, mission trips or just vacations. Many of those destinations are warmer locations where mosquito populations are known to transmit Zika and other diseases. DHEC encourages all those travelers to do their part to prevent mosquito bites.

Take care when traveling to an area with active transmission

“When traveling to any country with active Zika transmission, travelers should proactively take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. “Zika is actively spreading in several areas of the world, including countries and territories in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Pacific Islands and Cape Verde.”

Individuals planning to travel should consult a travel clinic or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see if they are traveling to an area with active Zika transmission. A complete list of countries and locations with active transmission can be found here: cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.

There have been 61 travel-related cases of Zika virus reported in South Carolina since April 2016. However, there have been no cases caused by mosquitoes in the state. “To help ensure this remains the case, it is very important for travelers to take these necessary precautions,” continued Dr. Bell.

Take precautions on the home front too

With temperatures rising in South Carolina, action on the home front is also needed to help fight mosquitoes. Eliminating breeding grounds is the No. 1 way to reduce mosquito populations, and all individuals can do their part by simply tipping and tossing any container with standing water.

“Mosquitoes have the ability to spread illnesses other than Zika, such as West Nile virus, chikungunya, dengue and eastern equine encephalitis,” said Dr. Bell.

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not have any symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Oftentimes, symptoms of Zika infection can be mild, yet last as long as one week. Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe birth defects. The virus can also be passed through sex. The CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant should not travel to areas abroad where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Learn more about prevention

For more information on steps that individuals can take to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around their homes, visit www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. For more information on the Zika virus, visit www.scdhec.gov/zika.

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.

The Best Way to Enjoy World Mosquito Day: Avoid the Insect’s Bite

Happy World Mosquito Day. Yes, even the pesky mosquito gets a day in the sun. But not for the best of reasons.

World Mosquito Day, which is August 20, was established in 1897, when the link between mosquitoes and malaria transmission was discovered by Sir Ronald Ross. The intent was to raise awareness about malaria and how it can be prevented, as well as raise money to help find a cure.

These days, it serves as an opportunity to remind people that the mosquito’s bite can produce far more than just an itch. While Zika is in the spotlight right now, mosquitoes also carry a host of other diseases that can cause serious health issues.

The most common diseases that could potentially be carried by mosquitoes in South Carolina, home to at least 61 different species, include: West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis virus, and dog/cat heartworm.

But you’re not totally at the mosquitoes’ mercy. There are ways to protect yourself.

  • Reduce the numbers of adult mosquitoes around your home.
    • Drain, fill or eliminate sites that have standing water.
    • Empty or throw away containers — from bottles and jars to tires and kiddie pools — that have standing water.
  • Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or make sure that you repair and use window/door screens.
  • Avoid Mosquitoes: Most mosquito species bite during dawn, dusk, twilight hours and night. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas.
  • Wear insect repellent: When used as directed, insect repellent is the BEST way to protect yourself from mosquito bites—even children and pregnant women should protect themselves. Choose a repellent that contain one of the following:
    • DEET: Products containing DEET include Cutter, OFF!, Skintastic.
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin): Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan outside the United States).
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD: Repel contains OLE.
    • IR3535: Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.
    • More repellent information
  • Cover up: When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

So, slap on the repellent, empty or get rid of containers in your yard holding water and, above all, enjoy World Mosquito Day in the best way possible — by avoiding mosquito bites.

Click here to learn more about protecting yourself and your home from mosquitoes.

For more information on Zika, visit cdc.gov/zika or scdhec.gov/zika.

You can help prevent the spread of Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases

 

Linda Bell, MD
State Epidemiologist
Clinical Services

Summer is here — and so is peak mosquito season, along with irritating bites and the threat of disease.

South Carolina is home to at least 61 different species of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes in our state might carry West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis or other viruses or parasites. The newest potential threat is the Zika virus, a typically mild virus for the general population, but one that can cause birth defects in infants when contracted by pregnant women.

As of August 1, South Carolina has had 26 travel-associated cases of Zika virus; 25 were in travelers infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. One case involved a S.C. resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the Zika infection while traveling.

Although mosquitoes in South Carolina do not carry the Zika virus at this time, there is a chance that some species could one day transmit the virus in our local communities.

We must be prepared.

DHEC, local governments and other partners came together this spring at the South Carolina Zika Forum to discuss and plan for the key roles we play in preventing and responding to Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.  But we need your help, too. Citizens are the first line of defense.

You can help protect our state against the Zika virus. Or West Nile. Or any other mosquito-borne illnesses. And you don’t have to be an expert.

You don’t even have to leave your own yard.  Simply take responsibility for ridding your property and home of mosquito-breeding grounds and protecting your family against bites.

Two of the main types of mosquitoes known to transmit the Zika virus are present in South Carolina and are commonly found near homes and buildings. They can breed in containers holding water. Even something as small as a bottle cap. Frequently emptying or removing containers that hold standing or stagnant water from your property is one of the most effective ways to reduce the presence of mosquitoes and prevent the spread of disease.

DHEC is urging residents to leave no stone unturned as they seek to silence the buzz and eliminate mosquito-breeding spots. Among other things:

  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Clean out rain gutters and downspouts regularly.
  • Empty and turn over or put away containers that can hold water, such as: cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, children’s toys, old appliances, etc.
  • Make sure all permanent water containers, such as wells, septic tanks, water tanks and cesspools are tightly covered and insect-proof.
  • Change the water in bird baths and empty and clean out children’s wading pools at least once a week.
  • Drain old tires or recycle them.
  • Use biological agents such as mosquito dunks or torpedoes to treat containers without lids or that can’t be lifted and emptied.

In addition to eliminating breeding sites, protect yourself from mosquito bites.

  • When you go outside, apply an EPA-recommended mosquito repellent to your skin or wear protective clothing.
  • Wear light colors and avoid wearing scented products outdoors.
  • Be careful when applying insect repellents to children and babies:
    • Spray repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
    • Do not apply repellent to a child’s hands, mouth, cut or irritated skin.
    • Do not use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on children younger than 3 years old.  Do not use repellents containing DEET on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Keep car windows rolled up and garage doors closed at night.
  • Make sure all screens on windows and doors are intact and installed properly.

Currently, all S.C. Zika cases are travel-associated. Before traveling, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers Health website (cdc.gov/travel) to see if your destination has any travel health notices and to find tips on preventing Zika infection during and after trips. CDC recommends pregnant women avoid areas with active Zika virus transmission.

For its part, DHEC monitors for mosquito-borne diseases that can be spread to people and provides information to reduce mosquito populations and prevent bites. The agency also encourages local governments to protect citizens through local mosquito control programs and local ordinances, and by treating standing water in roadside ditches and other areas.

Ultimately, it will take the best efforts of the entire community to provide an appropriate response to the risk that Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses present.

Rid your home and yard of trouble spots today. The sooner, the better.