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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2010

DHEC urges citizens to support West Nile virus surveillance and mosquito suppression

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Warm weather is approaching, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control wants your help to reduce the risk from the serious diseases mosquitoes can carry.

"Citizens of South Carolina can assist with their own protection from West Nile virus by submitting dead Blue Jays and crows for West Nile virus testing," said Chris Evans, a Ph.D. entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories. "Bird surveillance is an integral part of the surveillance system and having the public's involvement helps us sample a much wider area.

"Blue Jays and crows can be submitted through November 30," Evans said. "Citizens are asked to follow the directions on DHEC’s bird submission Web site to safely pick up and transport the birds to the closest DHEC Environmental Health office for testing."

According to Evans, birds that test positive for West Nile virus are reported to local mosquito control agencies so they can take appropriate action.

"As the weather begins to warm, regular spring cleaning activities can help reduce mosquito populations," said Sue Ferguson, an environmental health manager with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health. "Removing items from your yard that collect water, cleaning roof gutters and filling in low-lying areas will help prevent mosquitoes from breeding and allow outdoor activities such as gardening, barbecues and outdoor sports to be safer and more enjoyable.

"Mosquito populations can emerge from very small amounts of water, if that water is allowed to stagnate," Ferguson said. "It is important to support local mosquito prevention and control efforts."

Tips to help you make your yard safer and more pleasant this spring include:

Remove any buckets, cups, bottles, flowerpots, plastic bags, tires or any water-holding containers that might have accumulated outside.

  • Do not allow water to stagnate in low-lying areas of the yard, in boats or on tarps that cover yard items such as boats, swimming pools, grills and woodpiles.
  • Keep birdbaths and pet bowls clean. Flush with clear water and clean out at least once a week.
  • Clean fallen leaves and other debris out of roof gutters and spouting.
  • Make sure outdoor trash cans have tight-fitting lids. If lids are not available, drill holes in the bottom of the can.

Other items to check during the spring spruce-up:

  • Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good repair.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with minnows or use appropriately labeled products to control mosquito larvae.
  • Trim and maintain shrubs and grass.

"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 during spring, summer and fall," said Jerry Gibson, M.D., chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control. "Mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. They then transmit the virus, during feeding, to humans and animals."

In addition to preventing mosquitoes from breeding, Dr. Gibson advises people to practice personal protection measures to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Stay inside at dawn, dusk and early evening when mosquitoes are most active.
  • If you must be outside during these times, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use appropriate insect repellents according to label directions.

"Dogs and horses can also become infected with mosquito-borne diseases," said Stephanie Cox, DVM, veterinary epidemiologist with DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. "Consult your veterinarian to learn more about appropriate protection for your animals, such as heartworm testing and preventive medicine for dogs, and vaccination against West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses for horses."

DHEC’s West Nile virus Web site reports data gathered from its Bureau of Labs, along with collaborative data contributed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Clemson University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center.

For more information or assistance with mosquito control efforts, contact your local mosquito control program. For guidelines on submitting bird samples, surveillance data or more information on mosquito-borne diseases, visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile. For updated information about recommended mosquito repellants, visit the CDC Web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile.

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NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS – DHEC’S WEST NILE VIRUS NEWS RELEASE POLICY:
West Nile virus confirmations in birds and humans throughout the season will be posted to the WNV Web site at: http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile (then click on "S.C. Maps & Data"). We encourage reporters and editors to check the site regularly for updates, maps and charts.

For more information:
Adam Myrick – (803) 898-3884
E-mail – myrickar@dhec.sc.gov
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