Tag Archives: virus

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.

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.