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Mosquito-borne illness hits South Carolina, state's first case confirmed

Published: Jul. 22, 2005 at 8:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2005 at 12:20 AM EDT
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(Columbia) July 22, 2005 - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Friday that a Berkeley County horse has the first confirmed case of mosquito-borne illness in the state.

"Over the past few years, we think in terms of West Nile virus when we think of mosquito-borne illness," said Richard Turner of DHEC's Environmental Health Region 4. "However, one of the deadliest is Eastern Equine Encephalitis known as EEE, or 'Triple E.' The name might imply the disease only affects equines, such as horses, but it can affect humans so we want the public to be aware of the steps they can take to protect themselves."

It comes as no surprise that after increased levels of rainfall, there can follow an increase in the numbers of mosquito populations. And some of those mosquitoes can transmit diseases, including Triple E and West Nile virus. While the risk of exposure can never be eliminated, it is important to be vigilant in regard to reducing your risk.

"These diseases have become established in the nation, and we expect they are in South Carolina to stay," said Jerry J. Gibson, M.D., director of DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. "It is important to learn how to avoid mosquito bites to reduce our chances of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases, as well as to conduct mosquito prevention and control efforts year-round - especially after so much rain."

South Carolina's residents are being asked to partner with DHEC protect against the transmission of mosquito-borne illnesses. There are several things citizens can do:

  • Eliminate breeding sites to help reduce mosquito populations
  • Bring in birds to DHEC for testing: www.scdhec.gov/news/westnile/index.htm
  • Vaccinate horses, donkeys and other equine mammals against EEE and WNV
  • Protect yourself and your family by avoiding mosquitoes and their bites

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging homeowners to continue to check their property for low-lying areas and yard items that hold standing water, which is where mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs. According to L.A. Williams of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health, "Residents can reduce mosquito populations by detecting and eliminating breeding sites and, because the recent rainfall can result in more breeding sites, now is a perfect time to look around your yard and neighborhood and eliminate any standing water."

Last year DHEC's West Nile virus Web site reported data gathered from its Bureau of Labs, along with collaborative data contributed by the Department of Natural Resources and Clemson University's Veterinary Diagnostic Center.

Don't forget to protect your pets and livestock. Remember, horses, other equines and dogs can get mosquito-borne diseases. Check with your veterinarian about heartworm testing and preventive medicine for dogs. Vaccines are available to prevent West Nile virus as well as EEE in equines (horses, donkeys and mules). It is important to remember that, to be effective, each equine vaccine should be administered in each spring and fall because South Carolina's mosquito season is so long.

What else can you do to reduce the likelihood of contracting a mosquito-borne disease?

  • Wear protective clothing when outside (light colored, with long-sleeves and pants are best).
  • Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk
  • Wear appropriate levels of mosquito repellant. There are three types recommended this year by the federal Centers for Disease Control:
    • DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide),
    • Picaridin (KBR 3023) or 
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)].

For more information or assistance with mosquito control efforts, contact your local mosquito control program.

For guidelines for safely submitting bird samples and more information on West Nile virus and Triple E, visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/news/ and click on the Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile virus links.

For updated information about recommended mosquito repellants, visit the CDC Web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm .

Posted 3:57pm by Bryce Mursch