Tag Archives: Public Health

Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Causing property damage, skin irritation, and increased expenses, bed bugs are a nuisance worldwide. The good news is that these creepy crawlers are not considered carriers of disease and are, therefore, not a public health threat! Commonly treated by insecticide spraying, there are several steps you can take to help protect your family from bed bugs:

  1. Know how to identify a bed bug and understand where they’re found.
  2. Conduct regular inspections for signs of an infestation.
  3. If you believe you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company to have your home or business properly treated.

DHEC does not have regulatory authority to intervene or respond to bed bug-related issues at hotels, homes, apartments, thrift stores, etc. Bed bugs at state-licensed healthcare facilities, however, should be reported to us via our online complaint form. For more information about filing a complaint about bed bugs at a regulated healthcare facility, please click here.

Even though we do not inspect, treat or conduct site visits in response to bed bug complaints in homes or hotels, we want to make sure that everyone has access to the information they need to help prevent a bed bug infestation in their home.

Like mosquito bites, bed bug bites typically result in a minor skin irritation. Some people might experience a more severe allergic reaction. If you believe that you are experiencing an adverse reaction to a bed bug bite, please seek medical attention from your healthcare provider.

For more information about bed bugs, click on the following: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

DHEC in the News: Air quality alert tips, opioids, invisible public health crisis in rural South

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

Safety tips when under an air quality alert

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) — Fighting off the heat is typical at this time of year but the battle can be extra hard for some people.

Wednesday, DHEC issued an air quality alert between 10 a-m and 8 p-m. Those most at risk for getting sick were small children, older adults and people with respiratory problems. And because it’s likely there will be more alerts this summer health officials have these tips:

Opioid crisis: Tega Cay police offer new way residents can safely dispose of meds

TEGA CAY – Local residents who have unused or expired prescription drugs can now safely dispose of them at home.

Misuse of opioid-based drugs continues to impact communities across the country.

So far this year, there have been 13 overdose deaths in York County, eight of which were related to opioids, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Other deaths that are presumed to be overdoses are awaiting toxicology results. There were 550 drug overdose deaths involving opiates in South Carolina in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 2015 and an 18 percent increase from 2014, according to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

General Interest

The rural South’s invisible public health crisis

When Pamela Rush flushes her toilet, the waste flows out the back of her sky blue mobile home through a yellowing plastic pipe and empties just a few yards away in a soggy pit of mud, weeds, and dead grass.

On a hot day in mid-May, Rush walked around her yard in rural Lowndes County, Alabama. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed her as she tiptoed near the pit. The smell of sewage was overwhelming.

Rush, 48, a soft-spoken woman with striking brown eyes, has straight-piped her family’s waste into her yard for almost two decades. Her home is on the edge of clay dirt road in the dense Alabama forest, miles from a municipal sewer system. …

In the rural South, these conditions aren’t uncommon.

DHEC in the News: Opioids, free HIV testing, poison ivy

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

S.C. moving to address opioid crisis

In December, Gov. Henry McMaster, calling opioid abuse a “silent hurricane going on in our state,” took several actions including limiting opioid prescriptions under two state programs.

He declared a statewide public health emergency that allows authorities to more easily coordinate emergency management, health care and law enforcement resources. …

Six months later, McMaster says the state has made progress in a dual crisis – for health care and law enforcement.

LRMC offers free HIV testing at local Walgreens

Little River Medical Center (LRMC) is working with Walgreens to help provide free HIV testing and information on National HIV Testing Day Wednesday, June 27, between 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free testing will be available in Conway at Walgreens located at 1601 Church Street.

Free, confidential and fast test results will be available without the need to schedule an appointment. LRMC counselors will be on hand to answer questions about HIV prevention and treatment options.

General Interest

Test your poison ivy knowledge before the plant ruins your summer

(CNN)It was a close encounter in 2012 that made microbiologist John Jelesko take an interest in poison ivy.

The Virginia Tech associate professor was cutting up a downed tree with an electric chainsaw. What he didn’t realize was that his power cable had been dragging through poison ivy. …

“Within 48 hours, I had your classic case of poison ivy on my arm. And as a scientist, I said, ‘This is interesting, how bad can it be? I’ll just leave this untreated,'” he recalled, sheepishly. “In about two weeks, I had learned just how uncomfortable poison ivy rash could be.”

Collaborative project focuses on combating obesity and improving children’s health

As schools wrap up another academic year, findings from a project aimed at improving the health of South Carolina’s children highlight the benefit parents and communities can gain by including physical activity in children’s schedules over the summer and beyond.

While positive steps have already been taken in South Carolina to address the issue, the state still faces a high childhood obesity rate. According to the SC FitnessGram project, nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s youth are obese or overweight and almost half of them do not meet health-related standards for heart-lung fitness when tested on physical activities such as brisk walking or running.

‘Healthy students learn better’

This statewide effort to evaluate and improve health-related fitness among public school students is funded by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation as part of a partnership that includes DHEC, the South Carolina Department of Education and the University of South Carolina.

“The Foundation’s commitment to a healthier South Carolina starts by creating healthy habits in our children,” Foundation executive director Erika Kirby said. “We know that healthy students learn better. For the first time, we have statewide health-related fitness data that can be used to shape and support quality physical education efforts in South Carolina. We remain focused on the health of our children and will use these numbers as an example of the continued work to be done.”

While it has long been known that South Carolina has an obesity problem, this is the first time our state has compiled comprehensive data of this kind. Thanks to the statewide FitnessGram software and the partners that have collaborated on this effort, there is now a way of tracking the problem and, more importantly, of coming up with ways to combat it.

“The SC FitnessGram project provides important findings that are a great benefit to our state. It’s critical that we continue to support greater health-related fitness outcomes for our state’s K-12 students,” said USC President Harris Pastides.

Obesity has consequences 

During the 2016-2017 school year, over 100,000 students from over 700 schools in 60 school districts participated in the project. The program was administered by physical education teachers to students in the second, fifth and eighth grades and high school. FitnessGram assesses components of fitness that are known to be related to health outcomes in children and youth.

“The health and nutrition of South Carolina’s students has a strong impact on their future and productivity later in life,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “The collaborative support from both the public and private sectors in the SC FitnessGram project has provided educators and communities with valuable data to make informed decisions about the well being of our young people. I look forward to continuing our work and ensuring that South Carolina students are prepared for success.”

Obesity has important consequences on South Carolina’s health and economy. The economic cost of obesity in S.C. is estimated at $8.5 billion per year and growing. Obese and overweight children are at risk for several serious health problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Physical activity is key

“Increasing physical activity is a critical strategy to prevent childhood obesity and decrease the risk for numerous adverse health outcomes,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, DHEC director of Public Health. “Overcoming obesity is a significant challenge that South Carolinians must tackle together. It will take a concerted effort by parents, schools, community organizations, health care centers and others to help improve the health of our students.”

School-age youth need 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. In an effort to encourage more physical activity among South Carolina’s youth, several recommendations have been developed that people can use at homein schools, and around their communities.

The full SC FitnessGram report as well as other information related to obesity and fitness can be found on the SCaledown website at scaledown.org/fitnessgram.

Announcing DHEC’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award Winner

DHEC is proud to announce that Dr. Eliza Varadi has been selected as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Immunization Champion for South Carolina. CDC and the CDC Foundation hold this annual awards program to honor immunization champions across the 50 U.S. states, eight U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia during National Infant Immunization Week (April 21-28).

A champion for patients/caregiversVaradi pic

Dr. Varadi was nominated and selected from a distinguished pool of health professionals, community advocates, and other immunization leaders for making a significant contribution to public health in South Carolina through her work in childhood immunization.

Dr. Varadi is a champion for vaccines for patients and their parents/caregivers.  She educates parents about the importance of vaccines at prenatal visits and offers parents and caregivers Tdap and flu vaccine in her office to make sure they are protected. She also takes the time at sick visits to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines. Dr. Varadi is committed to dispelling misinformation about vaccines and is currently conducting a social media project where she posts reputable information about vaccines on her practice’s Facebook and Twitter pages. She has also participated in several initiatives to increase adolescent immunizations in her practice with excellent success.

Advocates who go the extra mile

Young children rely on the champions in their lives to keep them safe and healthy. Champions may be doctors and nurses who share scientifically accurate, up-to-date information about vaccines with parents. They may be advocates who go the extra mile to ensure that all children in their communities have access to vaccines. They may be public health professionals who work behind the scenes tracking immunization data, coordinating vaccine logistics, or developing public awareness campaigns. They may be parents who share their personal stories about vaccination with their communities.

When families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials work together, all children can be protected from serious and deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Varadi is an inspiration to all of us who care about children’s health in South Carolina. We are pleased and honored to congratulate her on this well-deserved award.

We also would like to recognize the other nominees for the S.C. award, as they all are champions for childhood immunization in the Palmetto State. They are Dr. Deborah Greenhouse (Palmetto Pediatrics, Columbia, SC), Dr. Calvin James (Family Health Centers, Inc., Orangeburg, SC) and Dr. Hannah Wakefield (MUSC Department of Pediatrics, Charleston, SC).  Congratulations to all nominees!

To read Dr. Varadi’s and other award winners’ profiles, click here.

About National Infant Immunization Week

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. Each year, during NIIW, communities across the U.S. celebrate the CDC Childhood Immunization Champions. These award recipients are being recognized for the important contributions they have made to public health through their work in childhood immunization.