Tag Archives: virus

DHEC offering Free Hepatitis Testing during Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and while National Hepatitis Testing Day is on May 19, DHEC’s health departments will be providing free testing on May 16.  Know Hepatitis LogosAppointments are encouraged. Please call 1-855-4-SCDHEC (472-3432) to schedule your appointment.

There are many strains of the hepatitis virus but for this year’s Hepatitis Awareness Month DHEC is focusing on Hepatitis A, B, and C, the major causes of contagious liver disease. The department urges anyone who has ever injected drugs, even once, and individuals born between 1945 and 1965, to talk with their healthcare professional about getting tested for hepatitis C and ask if they should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious. It can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A may occur in the context of community-wide epidemics, or from exposures to food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. It can also spread from close personal contact with an infected person such as through sex, needle-sharing by IV drug users or caring for someone who is ill.

Both Hepatitis B and C are usually spread when blood or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis B and C virus infections cause some people to develop an acute, or short-term, illness, while others develop a chronic, or long-term, illness.

In 2016, there were 33 cases of acute hepatitis B and 457 cases of chronic hepatitis B reported in South Carolina. Hepatitis B cases were on a steady decline nationally after the widespread use of the hepatitis B vaccine, but in recent years that rate of decline has slowed.

Nearly half of people living with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms and don’t know they are infected. The vast majority of new infections go undiagnosed. In South Carolina, almost 6,000 people were reported with chronic hepatitis C in 2016. Of those, the majority were baby boomers who were born between 1945 and 1965. Baby boomers are six times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than those in other age groups. They are also at a much higher risk of death from the virus.

Nationally, the number of new hepatitis C infections has nearly tripled over five years, reaching a 15-year high. The greatest increases and the highest overall number of cases were among young people ages 20-29 who inject drugs.

Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B but not C.

For more information about viral hepatitis and where to get tested visit www.scdhec.gov/ViralHepatitis or call the STD/HIV Hotline at 1-800-322-2437.

It’s Spring: Time To Protect Yourself And Your Family From Mosquitoes

Spring is here, following yet another warm winter in South Carolina. As you and your family are heading outside, remember that now is one of the most important times to start thinking about and taking action aimed at protecting your love ones from the pesky insects — even if mosquitoes are the “unofficial state bird!”

Mosquitoes known to carry diseases

South Carolina is home to at least 61 different species of mosquito. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time has encountered the itch-inducing menace on an almost daily basis during summer and fall. Hunters have literally been chased out of the woods, never to return (OK, maybe not literally)! Most of the time, we’re only concerned with the pain or itchiness from a mosquito’s bite – we don’t worry about getting sick. It is true, however, that mosquitoes can transmit disease.

Some mosquitoes in South Carolina have been known to carry West Nile virusEastern equine encephalitis virus, and other viruses or parasites. Although there has been heightened concern recently over Zika virus, no confirmed cases have occurred in South Carolina from South Carolina mosquitoes. All known cases of Zika in South Carolina, to date, have been travel or sexual contact related.

Do your part to help control mosquitoes

Joining forces and doing our part to combat the threat of mosquito-borne viruses and parasites is critical. We must be vigilant about controlling the mosquito population in our own yards and communities, while protecting ourselves from bites. Remove, empty, or fill any objects in your yard or home that might hold water in order to eliminate breeding sites.

In surveying your property for mosquito breeding spots, leave literally no stone unturned. Drain, fill, or get rid of areas that hold water.

  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt, and other debris from pipes.clean-gutters-istock_000006269745medium
  • Repair leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Regularly clean out rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Empty and turn over containers that hold water such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheel barrows, old appliances, and plastic sheeting or tarps used to cover objects like grills or swimming pools, etc.
  • 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.
  • Larger troughs for livestock should be cleaned out on a weekly basis.
  • Cover trash containers and garbage cans to keep rainwater from accumulating.
  • Drain or get rid of old tires by recycling them.

Avoid mosquito bites

If you are outside, wear protective clothing. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are more repellent_iStock_26736429_XXLARGEprotective than you might think. You may also choose to apply a mosquito repellent — either a spray or wipe — per manufacturer instructions to help shield you from bites. 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 screens or seal properly.

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

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: Tracking West Nile, HIV rates, flu

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

DHEC: Submitting dead birds can help track West Nile virus in SC

COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking residents to send dead birds to their local DHEC offices to help officials track the West Nile virus.

DHEC is asking people to send crows, blue jays, house finches, and house sparrows they find dead as part of the dead bird surveillance program.

General Interest

CDC reports HIV rates are highest in the South

HUNTSVILLE Ala. — HIV rates are declining in the United States due to prevention efforts and awareness, except for in the Deep South. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say southern cities now have the highest rates of new infections nationwide.

A Second Wave of Flu May Be On the Way, CDC Warns

The bulk of this year’s deadly flu season was dominated by the H3N2 virus, an influenza A strain that is more severe and less receptive to vaccines than other types of the disease. As the season winds down, however, influenza B has overtaken influenza A, setting the scene for a possible second wave of flu, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) data.

DHEC in the News: Flu, ‘Stop the Bleed’ kits, opioids

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

South Carolina flu season deadlier than any of past five

Some 221 South Carolinians have died so far this flu season, more than in any of the previous five flu seasons, state health officials report.

And flu season isn’t over yet.

According to state records, 46 South Carolinians died during the 2012-13 flu season, 78 perished in the 2013-14 season, 157 in the 2014-15 season, 47 in the 2015-16 season, and 94 in the 2016-17 season.

“This flu season has been particularly harsh for South Carolina and our country as a whole,” said Dr. Linda Bell, epidemiologist for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Upstate hospital sparks initiative to get life-saving equipment into every SC school

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — A team effort led to grant funding that will provide 19,000 life-saving kits to every school in South Carolina. The idea for the initiative started in Spartanburg.

“We’ve always called EMS first responders, but we want the lay public that has no background in medicine at all to not be afraid of what bleeding looks like,” said Amy Hamrick, trauma program manager at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

General Interest

Centers for Disease Control to award over $15 million in opioid overdose prevention funds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is awarding more than $15 million over three years to seven chosen projects that will help prevent opioid overdoses.

The CDC will award $15,750,000, given out as $750,000 per year, for a total of $2,250,000 over the three years.