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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 24, 2016

DHEC encourages local communities to help prevent mosquito-borne illnesses

COLUMBIA, S.C. - With warmer weather approaching, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is advising local governments to take action now to protect communities from mosquito-borne illnesses. The historic flooding in October, coupled with a relatively warm winter, has the potential to boost mosquito populations and the threat of disease.

DHEC is urging local governments to review, update or create local ordinances designed to help their mosquito control programs reduce or treat standing water that can provide breeding sites for mosquitoes. Mosquito control programs also should evaluate current response capacities and plans now before mosquito season begins in mid-March. Those counties or municipalities without mosquito abatement programs are being encouraged to evaluate the need for a local program.

"Mosquitoes have the ability to spread illnesses such as West Nile virus, chikungunya, dengue, eastern equine encephalitis and the Zika virus," said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. "We believe that elimination of breeding habitats now, thereby reducing mosquito populations, is the best way to prevent the spread of illness in our communities."
 
"The principal carrier of the Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is found in small numbers in the Lowcountry of our state," said Dr. Peter Adler, an entomologist with Clemson University and member of DHEC's Zika Task Force. "The Aedes albopictus mosquito is abundant in South Carolina, and the Zika virus has been linked to it elsewhere, making it a potential carrier."

Local authorities can help decrease the probability of any of the above mosquito-borne diseases by reducing the available breeding habitats in their communities, including roadsides, by removing any container-like objects that hold water.

"It's important to note that no cases of Zika have been identified in South Carolina at this time, and the virus is not currently found in mosquitoes in the United States," continued Dr. Bell. "However, it's never too early for local governments and individuals to begin taking steps to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illness in their communities."

DHEC public health and environmental officials work together to help identify and track the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. This effort includes partnering with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure mosquito populations are tested for viruses.
 
View a listing of local mosquito control programs statewide.

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 West Nile virus, visit www.scdhec.gov/westnile.

For more information on the Zika virus, visit www.scdhec.gov/zika.

 

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Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769