South Carolina health officials wants residents to be informed on the Zika virus, worried that local governments are not prepared for potential outbreaks this summer.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) held a briefing at the Statehouse on Tuesday about the tropical virus. Agency director Catherine Heigel told South Carolina Radio Network that when it comes to prevention of the virus, knowledge is power. “Our primary push right now is just information and education,” she said Tuesday.
Tuesday’s briefing was initially meant for state lawmakers. However, both the House and Senate ran late into the afternoon as each tries to finish their agenda before the regular session ends next week.
Zika virus is primarily spread to people through the bite of some Aedes mosquitoes. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported.
The first case of travel-associated Zika virus infection in a South Carolina resident was reported late last month. The case was confirmed in a person who recently traveled to a country with active transmission of the Zika virus. “We are working to do the necessary testing for appropriate response activities,” Heigel said. The individual no longer has symptoms and is not considered contagious, according to DHEC.
Heigel said any response to outbreaks will depend on local governments, particularly at the county level. Counties often spray for mosquitos, she said, while DHEC does not.
Most people infected with the Zika virus never become ill or show any symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Oftentimes, symptoms of Zika infection can be mild, yet last as long as one week. Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe birth defects. The CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant should not travel to areas abroad where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Learn more about Zika and how to protect yourself at www.scdhec.gov/Zika.