Tag Archives: SCDHEC

Confronting The Myths Surrounding Cervical Cancer

More than 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer each year, and more than half of these cases occur in women who have never been screened or who haven’t been screened in the past five years. Spreading the facts and debunking these and other myths is important. Please help spread the word during January for National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the year.

Myth #1: I don’t need to get screened because cervical cancer doesn’t run in my family.

MythBuster: Most cervical cancers are caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread by skin contact during vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has the virus. HPV is so common that almost every sexually active person will get it at some time in their life if they have not had the HPV vaccine. Although HPV is very common, few men and women will go on to develop cancer. The lack of a family history of cervical cancer is not a predictor of cervical cancer and is not a reason to skip screening.

Myth #2: I don’t need to get screened because I don’t have any symptoms.

MythBuster: A screening test is done to find anything abnormal in otherwise healthy people who are not having any symptoms. When there are symptoms, a diagnostic test is done to find out the cause of the symptoms. Women with abnormal cervical cells aren’t likely to experience any symptoms. But abnormal cells can still be detected by screening. Women should not wait for symptoms to get screened. However, if you have any unexplained bleeding, don’t wait. See a doctor right away to find out why.

Myth #3: I don’t want to get screened because if I have cervical cancer it can’t be treated anyway.

MythBuster: Screening helps prevent cervical cancer. Screening finds abnormal cells on the cervix so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. It also helps find cervical cancer early, when treatment works best. Women who don’t get screened regularly miss the opportunity to detect abnormal cervical tissue early, when treatment is very effective.

Cervical cancer is preventable by screening and treating any abnormal cervical tissue early. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends:

  • Screening with a Papanicoloau (Pap) test every three years for women aged 21 to 65 years.
  • Screening with a Pap and HPV test every five years for women aged 30 to 65 years.

Learn more about cervical cancer and other gynecologic cancers, and get resources to share from DHEC’s Best Chance Network and  CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign.

DHEC in the News: Flu

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

14 flu deaths reported in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD) – The Department of Health and Environmental Control says three people in South Carolina died from the flu last week, raising the death toll for this season to 14.

Flu activity on the rise in South Carolina, other southern states

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The flu is now widespread in Alabama — and it’s expected to increase, federal health officials reported.

Alabama is among 19 states reporting high levels of influenza in a recent report to the Centers for Disease Control, Al.com reported.

General interest

US Flu Season Poised to Be Milder Than Last Year’s Harsh One

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s early, but the current flu season is shaping up to be gentler than last winter’s unusually brutal one, U.S. health officials said.

In most parts of the country, most illnesses right now are being caused by a flu strain that leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths as the kind of flu that dominated a year ago, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines also work better against it, said the CDC’s Dr. Alicia Fry.

January is National Radon Action Month

This month is National Radon Action Month, and DHEC is encouraging all South Carolinians to test their homes for radon. Request your free home test kit today!

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Any home can have a radon gas problem. The only way to determine if your home is trapping radon is to test.

Quick Facts about Radon

  • Breathing in radon can change the cells in your lungs, which increases your chances for getting lung cancer.
  • Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S.
  • Smokers who are exposed to radon have a much higher risk of lung cancer.
  • Elevated radon concentrations have been found across South Carolina.
  • Radon levels of 70.0 pCi/L and higher have been found in South Carolina.
  • Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels.
  • Homes can be modified to reduce radon levels.
  • New homes can be built with radon-resistant features.
  • South Carolina has nationally certified radon professionals who can measure radon and fix homes with elevated radon.

The South Carolina Radon Program provides radon test kits to homeowners free of charge. Request your free home test kit at www.scdhec.gov/radon.

Leading Health Experts Emphasize Five Effective Ways To Prevent Birth Defects

Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States. It doesn’t have to be that common. That’s why DHEC is joining with leading prenatal health experts from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, Teratology Society and MotherToBaby this month to increase awareness of five critical tips to reduce the chances of having a baby with a birth defect.

The National Birth Defects Prevention Month campaign theme, Best for You. Best for Baby,” aims to raise awareness about the infants born with birth defects in South Carolina each year. In 2017, 1,142 infants were identified by the SC Birth Defects Program as having a birth defect. While we can’t prevent all birth defects, the following steps increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby.

  1. Be sure to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.
  • Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.
  1. Book a visit with your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any medicine.
  • There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her health care provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.
  1. Become up-to-date with all vaccines, including the flu shot.
  • Having the right vaccinations, like the flu and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy.
  1. Before you get pregnant, try to reach a healthy weight.
  • Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.
  1. Boost your health by avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy and exposure to it can cause major birth defects.
  • Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream.
  • The opioid addiction epidemic has led to a sharp increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), premature birth and drug withdrawal in developing babies.

According to Jason Salemi, PhD, MPH and president of the NBDPN, “Birth defects are a common cause of death in the first year of a baby’s life, but change happens through awareness.”

 How You Can Help

 DHEC encourages health advocates as well as the public to be an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Follow and share #Best4YouBest4Baby messages on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. The complete 2019 NBDPN Birth Defects Prevention Month information packet, including this year’s primary tips for birth defects prevention, “Best for You. Best for Baby. 5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects,” is available online at: www.nbdpn.org/bdpm.php.

Additional Resources to Support Healthy Pregnancies

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) strives to advance the health and well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable populations.

www.cdc.gov/birthdefects

 American Academy of Pediatrics

Dedicated to the health of all children, providing age-specific health information.

www.healthychildren.org

 MotherToBaby, a free service of the non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS)

Communicate directly with experts about exposures, like medications, vaccines and more during pregnancy and breastfeeding by calling toll free (866) 626-6847, texting questions to (855) 999-3525, live chatting or emailing at

www.MotherToBaby.org

The Teratology Society

An international and multidisciplinary group of scientists, including researchers, clinicians, epidemiologists and public health professionals from academia, government and industry who study birth defects, reproduction and disorders of developmental origin.

www.Teratology.org

March of Dimes

An organization aiming to make sure babies get the strongest start possible as well as reducing the rate of prematurity.

www.marchofdimes.org

The SC Birth Defects program is committed to improving birth defects prevention, research, and referrals in South Carolina. The program can be reached at scbdp@dhec.sc.gov.

Protect yourself, others against the flu during National Influenza Vaccination Week

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

With the spirit of giving resting upon us during this holiday season, there is no better public gift you can give than providing flu vaccinations for yourself and your family. The annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Although we are already two months into the flu season, it is not too late to get vaccinated. As a matter of fact, with this being National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 2-8) this is a perfect time to get vaccinated.

This is about more than avoiding the flu so you won’t be forced to miss the annual Christmas party. Illness with the flu can cause hospitalization or even death. Each flu

L.Bell headshot

Dr. Linda Bell

season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict, making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

 

Last year’s flu season was one of the worst we’ve seen in recent years, with a high number of deaths and hospitalizations here in South Carolina and across the nation. It is important to get vaccinated now, before any significant spread of the flu virus begins in our community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone 6 months old and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider, the vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. Find the facility that works best for you.

Some people are more likely to get serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or inflammation of the heart or brain. This includes infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women and anyone with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart or lung disease and diabetes. Making sure that you — and those in these vulnerable groups — are vaccinated will provide much needed protection.

There are significant benefits to getting the flu vaccine:

  • It gives your body the ability to fight the flu if you are exposed to someone who is ill.
  • It is effective in protecting against several different strains of the flu that circulate each season.
  • It offers lasting protection against the flu for at least six to eight months.
  • It is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, take other preventive measures, such as avoiding people who are sick and staying home from work, school and other places if you are sick. Also, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Other habits that can help you stay healthy year round include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

But we can’t overlook the critical role immunizations play in protecting children, families and communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Whether it’s getting young children vaccinated against diseases such as whooping cough and measles, ensuring teens are protected against conditions such as HPV, or making sure those in your circle get vaccinated against the flu, immunizations help us stay healthy.

So, don’t forget your flu shot. The protection it will provide for you and others around you will be one of the best gifts you will give this holiday season.

For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you visit www.scdhec.gov/flu.