Tag Archives: 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.

The Best Way to Enjoy World Mosquito Day: Avoid the Insect’s Bite

Happy World Mosquito Day. Yes, even the pesky mosquito gets a day in the sun. But not for the best of reasons.

World Mosquito Day, which is August 20, was established in 1897, when the link between mosquitoes and malaria transmission was discovered by Sir Ronald Ross. The intent was to raise awareness about malaria and how it can be prevented, as well as raise money to help find a cure.

These days, it serves as an opportunity to remind people that the mosquito’s bite can produce far more than just an itch. While Zika is in the spotlight right now, mosquitoes also carry a host of other diseases that can cause serious health issues.

The most common diseases that could potentially be carried by mosquitoes in South Carolina, home to at least 61 different species, include: West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis virus, and dog/cat heartworm.

But you’re not totally at the mosquitoes’ mercy. There are ways to protect yourself.

  • Reduce the numbers of adult mosquitoes around your home.
    • Drain, fill or eliminate sites that have standing water.
    • Empty or throw away containers — from bottles and jars to tires and kiddie pools — that have standing water.
  • Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or make sure that you repair and use window/door screens.
  • Avoid Mosquitoes: Most mosquito species bite during dawn, dusk, twilight hours and night. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas.
  • Wear insect repellent: When used as directed, insect repellent is the BEST way to protect yourself from mosquito bites—even children and pregnant women should protect themselves. Choose a repellent that contain one of the following:
    • DEET: Products containing DEET include Cutter, OFF!, Skintastic.
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin): Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan outside the United States).
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD: Repel contains OLE.
    • IR3535: Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.
    • More repellent information
  • Cover up: When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

So, slap on the repellent, empty or get rid of containers in your yard holding water and, above all, enjoy World Mosquito Day in the best way possible — by avoiding mosquito bites.

Click here to learn more about protecting yourself and your home from mosquitoes.

For more information on Zika, visit cdc.gov/zika or 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.