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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2012

South Carolinians advised about increase in mosquito-related diseases

COLUMBIA – An increase of mosquito-borne disease activity in 2012 has prompted state health officials to remind the public of steps to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“Despite the approaching cooler weather, you still need to protect yourself from mosquito bites,” said Chris Evans, Ph.D. and entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories. “Mosquitoes can be active in the fall, even after extended periods of cold weather. Bites to humans and other animals from infected mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus, La Crosse encephalitis virus, and eastern equine encephalitis virus, which have been found in higher numbers this year.

“West Nile virus has been detected in 24 birds, 5 horses, and 9 mosquito samples in South Carolina so far this year,” Evans said. “Additionally, eastern equine encephalitis can cause severe consequences for those infected, and it has been found in 1 person and 15 horses in S.C. this year.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus cases have been reported in people from 48 states, with over 4,800 cases, including 223 deaths so far in 2012, compared to 712 human cases, including 43 deaths in 2011.

“So far this year, the illness has been detected in 30 people in South Carolina and three have died from the infection, compared to less than 5 cases per year over the last 5 years,” said Dr. Linda Bell, M.D. and interim state epidemiologist. “Our warm autumn weather brings many people outdoors during this time of year to garden, attend sporting events and fall festivals, and enjoy other activities. It's very important to continue protecting yourself and your family during these days of warm fall weather to avoid mosquito-borne disease.”

Dr. Bell advises that a good way to avoid mosquito bites is by following the 4 Ds:

  • DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
  • Dress – Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
  • Dawn and dusk – Exposure to mosquitoes is most common during the early morning and evening so it is important to wear repellent at that time. Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
  • Drain – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water, in containers just above the water line, and in moist soil that is subject to flooding. Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, such as tire ruts, flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls. If you have an ornamental pond, use mosquito fish (available from some local mosquito control agencies) or commercially available products to eliminate mosquito larvae.

For more information about mosquito-borne disease, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/envhealth/pests/mosquitoes-diseases.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/list_mosquitoborne.htm .

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For media inquiries:
Jim Beasley – (803) 898-7769
Email – beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov