ONE-ON-ONE: DHEC public health director warns about West Nile virus after death in the Midlands

ONE-ON-ONE: DHEC public health director warns about West Nile virus after death in the Midlands

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Even with the weather being so nice, there’s things you should be aware of before going outdoors.

DHEC has reported an outbreak of West Nile virus and the first death from the disease in several years. 

“Last known West Nile virus death in South Carolina was several years ago in 2018,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC public health director. 

However this week, DHEC announced the first death from West Nile virus this year.  So far, 9 of the 11 cases of the disease have occurred in the Midlands. 

“We see West Nile virus occurring every summer in recent years in South Carolina statewide,” Traxler said. “However, we have seen an uptick in activity in the Midlands. There’s enough in Richland County that on Friday, we determined that there’s an outbreak of West Nile virus.”

Not everyone who gets bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease gets sick.

“Only about 20 percent of people who are bitten by a mosquito and infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms. However, that’s 1 in 5 people who are going to feel poorly,” the public health director said. “In about 2 to 14 days after they’re bitten they’ll develop symptoms like fever, hurting, feeling poorly all over, muscle and joint pain.”

Being outside in South Carolina, it’s hard to avoid mosquitos and wearing long-sleeved clothing in this humid weather isn’t always an option. Dr. Traxler says the next best thing is to wear insect repellent  containing DEET.

“Really encourage folks to walk around the outside of their property to make sure they don’t have standing water,” Traxler said. “That’s the biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is to do that periodically and to get some good bug spray.”

Dr. Traxler says these tips can help reduce the amount of mosquitoes you encounter. 

“Then, don’t let them come inside. Don’t leave the door wide open without a screen,” she advises. “Make sure screens and doors are well-fitted. We don’t want them chasing us around the house and biting us indoors.”

West Nile virus has been identified by DHEC in five birds and 38 mosquito samples.

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