Tag Archives: Zika

It’s spring: Protect yourself and your family against mosquitoes

After yet another warm winter in South Carolina, spring is upon us — and so is mosquito season.

As you and your family head outside, remember that now is the time to begin taking action to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquitoes — even if mosquitoes are the unofficial state bird!

Mosquitoes can spread diseases

South Carolina is home to at least 61 different species of mosquitoes. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time has faced this itch-causing menace on an almost daily basis during the spring, summer and fall. Most of the time, we are only concerned with the pain from the mosquito’s bite, but we also need to be aware that mosquitoes can spread diseases that may result in illness.

Some mosquitoes in South Carolina have been known to carry West Nile virusEastern Equine Encephalitis, and other viruses or parasites. Since the beginning of 2016, there has been heightened concern over the Zika virus. Fortunately, there have been no confirmed local Zika cases caused by South Carolina mosquitoes. All known cases of Zika in our state, to date, have been travel or sexual contact related.

You can help control the mosquito population

It is critical that we all join forces and do our part to combat the threat of mosquito-borne viruses and parasites. We must be vigilant about controlling the mosquito population in our own yards and communities while protecting ourselves from bites. You can begin by removing, regularly emptying or filling in any objects in your yard or home that might hold water in order to eliminate breeding sites. When searching for mosquito breeding spots on your property, leave no stone unturned.

To help reduce mosquito populations on your property:

  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Regularly clean out rain gutters and downspouts.cleaning-gutters
  • Empty and turn over containers that hold water, such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheelbarrows, old appliances, tarps used to cover grills or swimming pools, etc. Don’t forget to scrub containers to remove any mosquito eggs that remain attached to the walls (Tip, Toss, Turn and Scrub!).
  • 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.
  • Clean out larger livestock troughs weekly.
  • Cover trash containers and garbage cans to keep rainwater from accumulating.
  • Drain or get rid of old tires by recycling them.

When outside, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts (the lighter in color, the better). You may also choose to apply a mosquito repellent — either a spray or wipe — per manufacturer instructions to help shield you. 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 intact screens and seal properly.

Learn more

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

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.

Facing Down Mosquitoes after a Hurricane

Rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew left many areas of South Carolina saturated with standing water — prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are cold-blooded and do not thrive in cooler temperatures, so cold snaps in the weather can help reduce the likelihood of excessive mosquito breeding.  But don’t leave it to chance; do your part to reduce mosquito populations and lessen the chance of your family being exposed to these pesky, and potentially harmful, insects.

This isn’t just about the bothersome itch a mosquito’s bite might cause; the insect can carry harmful diseases, including Zika, West Nile and more.

Rid your home of places where mosquitoes breed

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. One of the most important steps in controlling them is to identify all of the places where water can accumulate on your property and eliminate them as possible breeding grounds.

  • Empty and turn over containers that hold water such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheel barrows, old appliances, plastic sheeting or tarps used to cover objects like grills or swimming pools, etc.
  • Remove debris from gutters.
  • Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes, especially those under a driveway. Make sure water does not stand inside or near the ends of the pipe.
  • Clean out rain gutters and downspouts regularly.
  • Drain or fill any low places, such as potholes, on your property where water collects and stands for more than five to seven days.
  • Make sure that all permanent water containers such as wells, septic tanks, cisterns, water tanks and cesspools are tightly covered and insect-proof.
  • Fix leaky pipes and outdoor faucets.
  • Cover trash containers/garbage cans to keep rainwater from accumulating.
  • Keep boats and canoes drained and covered/overturned.
  • Drain or get rid of old tires by recycling them.
  • Pack tree holes and hollow stumps with sand or cement.

Avoid mosquito bites and possible exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses.

  • Apply EPA-approved insect repellent to protect you during time spent outdoors.
  • Repair damaged or broken doors and screens.
  • Wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves and long pants.
  • Close garage doors at night.

If you have mosquito problems in your area, visit DHEC’s mosquito information page and click on “Local Mosquito Control” in the menu box for a list of local mosquito control agency contacts.

Learn more about eliminating mosquito breeding sites and preventing mosquito bites at the DHEC website.

DHEC urges South Carolinians to protect against mosquito bites in light of West Nile Virus identification

Identification of West Nile Virus in mosquitoes in South Carolina is a reminder of the importance of protecting against mosquito bites, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging residents to take precautions.

“The most important step anyone can take to prevent West Nile virus infection and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to protect against being bitten by a mosquito,” said Linda Bell, M.D., state epidemiologist.

So far this year in South Carolina, West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes at the Joint Base Charleston and the Shaw Air Force Base. It has also been detected in mosquitoes in Oconee, Sumter and York Counties. In addition to mosquitoes, DHEC has confirmed the first human cases of West Nile Virus in South Carolina this year.

“Most people infected with West Nile Virus have no symptoms of illness,” said Dr. Bell. “About one in five people infected becomes ill within two to 14 days with symptoms including fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting. Often they experience sensitivity to light and inflammation of the eyelids. Some may have a rash. The risk of serious illness is low. Less than one percent of people infected develop a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis.”

Dr. Bell said that West Nile Virus is a disease of birds transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds.

DHEC recommends residents pay attention to the most effective ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting.
  • Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
  • Exposure to mosquitoes is most common during the early morning. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.
  • For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites, click here.

For more information about WNV, visit www.scdhec.gov/westnile or the CDC’s page, www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

CDC offers K-12 schools guidance on Zika prevention and response

It’s the beginning of yet another school year, and parents are rightly asking many questions in an effort to make sure students will get the best instruction, guidance and care possible.

What is the teacher’s homework policy and how often does he give tests? How much experience does the school nurse have? Where will medications be kept and how quickly will a student be able to access them if needed? What’s the school’s emergency dismissal plan?

What’s the plan to prevent and respond to the threat of Zika at school?

Wait. What was that? A plan for dealing with Zika? At school?

While parents are not used to asking that question, the fact is schools, like individual households, cities and counties and other entities, can’t ignore the potential spread of Zika.

But schools aren’t left to their own devices. The Centers for Disease Control has developed interim guidance for district leaders and administrators at K-12 schools. The guidance includes information for planning school-related activities and recommends actions schools, in consultation with local public health authorities and government officials, can take to reduce the potential risk for Zika virus transmission on school premises and among students.

CDC notes that there is no evidence that the risk for Zika being transmitted on school properties will be higher than in other local areas. The virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, through sexual contact, or from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

The CDC guidance, which will be updated as new information becomes available, provides an overview of the potential roles and responsibilities of public health authorities and school officials, describes prevention measures that schools can take to reduce mosquito exposure, and provides information on responding to a case of travel-associated Zika virus infection or confirmed local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus. Considerations for child care, camp and higher education settings also are addressed.

Click here for information on interim guidance for Zika response planning for district and school administrators.

The latest available Zika virus information, including answers to commonly asked questions, can be found here.

Information on mosquitoes and Zika can also be found at scdhec.gov/mosquitoes or scdhec.gov/zika.