COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The most active West Nile season in at least half a decade – maybe even more than a decade – is how the director of Richland County Vector Control describes 2017 in her county.
"This has been the most intense activity since it arrived here in around 2003," said Tammy Brewer, the director.
Wednesday, the county office put out an urgent plea to citizens. West Nile is out there, so protect yourself.
She said the first identified case of West Nile was found in a dead red-tailed hawk that was discovered in Downtown Columbia during the summer. Since then, positive cases have spread.
In an interview Thursday, Brewer said it's primarily showing up in Richland County's urban areas: downtown Columbia, Irmo -- the Friarsgate and St. Andrews area-- the Sandhill area, and, most recently, Forest Acres.
Brewer said her office is focused almost entirely on West Nile right now. It's constantly setting and collecting four traps in county hotbeds.
Brewer said awareness is a big part of the equation since her office can't be everywhere at all times. She also demonstrated how to put on insect repellent. Many people aren't using it correctly or wearing it at all. She said it should be used when outdoors, especially right now.
There have been 11 cases of human West Nile so far this year across the state. One happened in Richland County. A fatal case happened in Anderson County.
This warmer weather isn't helping. Brewer said this area will need days of consistent 50° temperatures to help put a damper on mosquito populations.
"I don't want people to have a false sense of security that, 'Oh! Mosquito control people are taking care of everything.' We can't take care of everything. We need them to help," Brewer said.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, "West Nile virus is a disease transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds. 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."