PICKENS COUNTY — Temperatures have been dipping lately, but the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control warns not to put away that mosquito repellent just yet: mosquitoes (and the illnesses they can carry) are still around.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile virus cases have been reported in people from 46 states — including S.C. — in 2017.
So far the agency has reported just under 1,300 nationwide cases. In 67 of those cases, the patient died.
There is good news: The 2017 numbers represent a decline when compared to the 2,038 human cases and 94 deaths reported the year prior.
The year isn’t over, but the CDC updates these numbers weekly.
“In 2017, West Nile virus infection has been detected in 17 people in South Carolina to date, compared to an average of ten cases per year over the last five years,” said Linda Bell, M.D., state epidemiologist at DHEC. “One person has died from the infection.”
While human cases have not been confirmed in Pickens County, scientists have detected it in the Upstate. Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg counties have all had one or more confirmed cases in people as have Beaufort, Horry, Laurens, Lexington, Richland, Union and York counties.
Infected animal or mosquito samples have been confirmed in Anderson, Beaufort, Cherokee, Colleton, Greenville, Kershaw, Lexington, Richland, Saluda, Union and York counties.
“Until we have an extended period of cooler weather, mosquitoes are going to be active well into the fall, so you still need to protect yourself and your home from mosquitoes,” said Chris Evans, Ph.D., entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.
Because mosquitoes breed in standing water, one easy step to help curb their population is to remove areas around your property where water can accumulate, the agency stated.
Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt and other debris from pipes — especially those under a driveway — and make sure that water does not stand inside or near the ends of the pipe, they said. Clearing rain gutters and downspouts of debris regularly can also help as DHEC stated clogged gutters are “one of the most overlooked breeding sites for mosquitoes around homes.”
Empty and turn over containers that hold water such as cans, jars, drums, bottles, flower pots, buckets, children’s toys, wheel barrows, old appliances, plastic sheeting, or tarps used to cover objects like grills or swimming pools, they said.
DHEC also recommends to drain or fill any low places (such as potholes) on your property where water collects and stands for more than five to seven days.
But if you’re still having a mosquito problem, don’t panic.
“The risk of serious illness or death from West Nile virus is low,” said Bell. “Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms.”
According to the CDC, about one in five people infected with West Nile becomes ill within two to 14 days with symptoms that include fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, diarrhea, rash and occasionally nausea and vomiting.
About one in 150 people infected develop more severe symptoms such as a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis, or inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, known as meningitis.
Other serious symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, the agency said.
“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,” said Bell. “It’s very important to continue protecting yourself and your family during these days of warm fall weather to avoid mosquito-borne disease.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.