Tag Archives: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

Active flu season: A Case Study In How DHEC Works Year Round To Protect S.C.’s Health

By Lilian Peake, MD
Director, Public Health

The current flu season, one of the most active in recent years, has commanded the attention of our entire state and nation. And for good reason: The flu can be a serious threat. This contagious respiratory illness can cause mild to severe illness, with potentially serious complications resulting in hospitalization or death.dr-lilian-peake-dhec

That’s why it is so important to have a strong public health system not only working to prevent disease, but also monitoring the health and well-being of the people of South Carolina and responding as situations arise.

As South Carolina’s lead public health and environmental agency, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible for protecting and promoting the health of our community. Our public health system must be well prepared to address a variety of health threats to our citizens. These threats may be infectious diseases, such as West Nile virus, whooping cough, and flu, or disasters, such as hurricanes. DHEC employs skilled public health and environmental control professionals who work every day to improve the health of South Carolinians and maintain readiness to respond to any public health threats to our community.

DHEC public health professionals work year round to provide education and surveillance to prepare for seasonal flu as well as the threat of pandemic flu. DHEC staff collaborate with other public health professionals, health care providers and community partners each year, both before and during flu season, to help our state better respond to flu, no matter how severe the season.

Prevention is the first place to start. Getting vaccinated is the best way South Carolinians can prevent the spread of influenza. Yearly vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. DHEC provides flu vaccination at its health clinics across the state, in schools, and in other community settings. Health care providers, pharmacies and others also provide flu shots. This season DHEC was a partner in a Palmetto Health initiative to provide flu vaccine clinics in churches in the Midlands.

DHEC shares prevention messages and other information on its website and through news releases, interviews, blog posts, social media and public service announcements. This helps keep the public up-to-date on the flu season and inform them of the important steps they can take to protect themselves, their families, and vulnerable members of their community.

Monitoring (or conducting surveillance) of influenza plays an important role in understanding the spread of the flu, the severity of the season and its impact on South Carolina.  It helps detect novel influenza strains, measure the effects of influenza, determine where the flu is spreading in the state and the nation, and identify unusual clustering of cases or outbreaks. Detecting flu early in the season provides more opportunity to encourage members of high-risk groups to get vaccinated before the virus becomes widespread.

Certain influenza data are required to be reported to DHEC to allow for monitoring, including confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths. These data are used to produce FluWatch, a weekly summary of influenza activity in South Carolina. Outbreaks of flu in schools, child care centers, health care facilities and elsewhere must also be reported, and DHEC provides guidance to help stop the spread of influenza.

DHEC also partners with hospitals to help respond to flu. During this year’s active season, hospitals across the state put their medical surge plans into operation to successfully handle the increased number of patients. Working with hospitals and the South Carolina Hospital Association, DHEC facilitated a process in which bed availability and emergency room status were gathered daily. By working together, there was assurance that patients got the care they needed.

Such collaboration supports DHEC’s vision of healthy people living in healthy communities. It is good to know that when the public health is threatened, South Carolina is ready to respond.

DHEC in the News: Safe sleep, protecting water, workplace noise and high blood pressure

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

Health in Brief: DHEC encourages parents to practice ‘safe sleep’ habits with babies

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recently published a press release reminding parents to practice safe sleep habits with infants. The agency reported that six infants in South Carolina die each month due to sleep-related deaths.

Study aims to protect water at the source

The clean air and water, mountain views and scenic rivers that attract so many people to the Upstate is the driving force behind a watershed plan being developed for the 220,000-acre Tyger River Watershed Basin.

Keeping it beautiful and clean for future generations is the goal of Upstate Forever, a Greenville-based land conservation organization that is parlaying a $40,000 federal grant into a plan to identify sources of water pollution as well as areas deemed “critical” for protection or restoration.

General Interest

CDC: Workplace noise linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol

High blood pressure and high cholesterol — two risk factors for heart disease — are more common among workers exposed to loud noise in their workplaces, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

DHEC in the News: Safe sleep, WIC mobile unit, Great Falls whitewater site

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

DHEC provides tips on preventing SIDS and safer infant sleep

COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) – The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is warning parents about sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, and providing tips that can make a difference. In South Carolina, six infants die each month from unsafe sleep, DHEC said in a media release. Babies are at risk of sleep-related deaths until they are a year old.

Here are some tips for safer sleep, per DHEC:

  1. ALONE– Babies should sleep alone in their own safe sleep space such as a crib or bassinet with a firm, flat mattress. For the first year of life, baby should have a separate safe sleep space in the parent’s room.
  2. BACK– Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back, both for naps and at night. Placing babies on their backs to sleep is one of the most important ways to prevent SIDS.
  3. CRIB– Make sure that the crib or bassinet you’re using is safety approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission and that the crib is bare. Remove all pillows, blankets soft toys, or bumpers.

SC DHEC debuts new mobile unit to help Upstate women & children

ANDERSON (AP/FOX Carolina) – A new mobile unit from SC DHEC is helping women make sure their children are getting the nutrients they need.

The van is for the department’s WIC program. WIC stands for woman, infant and children. It gives moms access to the proper nutrients for their children. Women have to qualify to become part of the program. To find out if you qualify, click here.

Duke Energy designs whitewater recreation site in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS, SC (WBTV) – Duke Energy is in the preliminary design phase of a recreational whitewater project. A spokesperson with Duke Energy says they have never done a project like this before.

According to Duke Energy and the Great Falls Hometown Association, the energy giant will construct two whitewater channels along the Catawba River near Fishing Creek Dam. The project will also include three kayaking and canoeing put-ins along a stretch of the Catawba River between the Fishing Creek Dam and just south of the Great Falls Dam.

DHEC in the News: Daily ozone forecast, opioids, flu

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

DHEC to provide daily ozone forecast starting April 1

COLUMBIA, SC – Ozone season begins April 1, marking the start of daily forecasts for ground-level ozone from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

High concentrations of ozone can create breathing problems, especially for children, people with asthma or other respiratory problems, and adults who work or exercise outdoors. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ozone can also cause tree and crop damage.

Opioid Overdose Deaths Continue Their Rise In The U.S., CDC Study Finds

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Weekly Report issued yesterday, opioid overdose deaths continued to rise in the U.S. from 2015 to 2016, despite greater public awareness, enhanced provider awareness of prescribing behavior, as well as added measures put in place throughout communities for treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD).

Flu is still hanging around in some regions, CDC warns

(CNN)You may want to take a little extra time washing your hands if you’re visiting relatives this Passover and Easter weekend. Doctors are still seeing a number of patients with flu, but the numbers are declining amid an intense flu season.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed four more flu-associated pediatric deaths in the 12th week of the season, bringing the total to 137 since October. Puerto Rico and 16 states were still seeing widespread flu cases during the week ending March 24, the CDC said Friday in its weekly surveillance report.

The Ozone Forecasting Season is Upon Us

Spring is here and that means the return of the ozone forecasting season (April 1 through Sept. 30). As we drive in our vehicles, the exhaust contributes to ground-level ozone in our atmosphere. Under certain conditions, ozone levels can be high enough that an Ozone Action Day, or “orange day” alert is issued. High levels can adversely impact people who are sensitive to ozone pollution, especially children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems.

You can check the daily ozone forecast during the season in one of two ways:

1)  Visit www.scdhec.gov/apps/environment/ozoneforecast/.

2)  Sign up to receive the ozone forecast at www.enviroflash.info.

In the event an Ozone Action Day is issued, there are some things you can do to help curb ozone pollution:

1)  If you live close enough, consider walking or biking to work or to run errands.

2)  Consider carpooling with people who live in your neighborhood and work close to you. To find a carpool, try www.erideshare.com.

3)  If your neighborhood is served by public transportation, take the bus.

4)  Telecommute from home or satellite office (if applicable to your work schedule).

If we all do our part to reduce the effects of ozone pollution, we can improve our air quality here in South Carolina!