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July 2, 2010

DHEC offers holiday, summer safety tips

COLUMBIA, S.C. - During the upcoming holiday weekend and during the remainder of the summer, safety and health should be a top concern for South Carolinians, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

“With no forecast of rain and slightly cooler temperatures for the Fourth of July weekend, more people will be outdoors,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. “This increases the likelihood of coming into contact with an animal that might have rabies.”

Ferguson said residents should be aware of any animal that is acting strangely (such as staggering, seizures and extreme lethargy) or exhibiting unusually bold behavior. Report these incidents to local authorities immediately.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.

“The primary line of defense against rabies is to be a responsible pet owner. Keep vaccinations of cats and dogs up to date, since they are more likely to come into contact with raccoons, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals,” Ferguson said. “State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies. This is to protect both the pets and their owners.”

While recreating outdoors, many South Carolinians will shoot fireworks over the long holiday weekend.

“We recommend great caution when using consumer fireworks,” said Neal Martin of DHEC’s Division of Injury and Violence Prevention. “Don’t let careless, improper or illegal use of fireworks ruin your celebration. Ensuring the safety of family, friends and neighbors should be a top priority.”

According to Martin, the best way to prevent fireworks injuries is to leave fireworks displays to trained professionals.

Another popular outdoor activity includes picnicking. Whether during church gatherings or family reunions, thousands of food items will be prepared and eaten outdoors and that increases the potential for foodborne illnesses.

“The risk of foodborne illness rises with warm weather and when foods are left unrefrigerated for long periods of time,” said Sandra Craig, director of DHEC’s Division of Food Protection.

“Potentially hazardous foods are abundant at most cookouts, from ground beef burgers and grilled or fried chicken to cut melons, all of which can support bacterial growth if precautions are not taken,” Craig said. “Even if bacteria are not present when you begin, they can grow quickly if conditions are right. Avoid leaving foods out at room temperature for longer than two hours and always use a clean plate for cooked foods coming off the grill. Never re-use the container or plate the raw meat was on unless it has been washed.

“If you enjoy oysters, you might want to plan an oyster roast in order to play it safe for your family and friends,” Craig said. “Raw shellfish can pose a risk to people who have weakened immune systems.”

There are also very simple ways to reduce the risk from the serious diseases mosquitoes can carry.

“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 summer, fall and spring,” said Jerry Gibson, M.D., chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control. “Mosquitoes can transmit diseases, 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.

For more information on these and many other issues, visit DHEC’s website at :


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