UNION COUNTY — The people of Union County are being urged to take steps to protect themselves from the West Nile Virus after a Jonesville area resident was diagnosed with the disease.
According to the DHEC website (www.scdhec.gov/westnile/) West Nile Virus “is a disease transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on infected birds.”
The website states that West Nile virus “is common in birds, humans and other animals in Africa, Australia, Eastern Europe, west Asia and the Middle East.”
It further states that the virus “was first detected in North America in 1999, and has since spread across the continental United States and Canada.”
The virus has now reached Union County which this week learned that a Jonesville area resident has been infected with it.
In a statement released Monday morning, Union County Supervisor Frank Hart announced that DHEC had notified the county “of a confirmed human case of the West Nile Virus. One individual in the Jonesville area of the county was confirmed to have been infected with the virus.”
Hart said that “while it cannot be determined for sure that this individual contracted the mosquito-borne infection in Union County, the County is following recommended DHEC procedures to reduce the chance of spreading the illness.”
Those steps include:
• Spraying for adult mosquitoes near the reported case.
• Removing mosquito habitats such as standing water ranging from wastewater areas to bird baths, old tires, or any container that holds water.
• Treating mosquito larvae, especially in storm drains with leaf litter or any other containers that cannot be turned over or discarded
• Conducting door-to-door visits near the reported case to provided information pamphlets and assist residents with looking for areas where mosquitoes may reproduce.
The county took those steps Monday, setting up a mobile command post in the parking lot of the Jonesville Municipal Complex from which county and municipal personnel spread out across the the Town of Jonesville and surrounding areas to inform and educate the public about the situation. County personnel handed out copies of the county press release along with DHEC fliers about how the public could minimize the presence of mosquitoes in their area.
In addition, if granted permission by the property owner, county personnel went on the properties they visited to find and, if possible, eliminate any mosquito breeding grounds they found.
To eliminate adult mosquitoes, the county had an area that stretched from just above Pineneedle Street to just below Maple Road and encompassing all of the Town of Jonesville and surrounding areas sprayed with an insecticide called Aqua-Reslin.
Union County Sheriff David Taylor said Tuesday that “everything went smoothly” on Monday. Taylor said that “we had only two calls on the emergency contact number we set up.” He said the callers were asking questions about when the spraying would be done and about reporting areas of standing water.
Taylor thanked the deputies with his office, and personnel from Union County Code Enforcement, the Union County Public Works Department, and the Town of Jonesville for helping spread the word around the community about the virus and what the public could do to protect themselves.
Hart said Tuesday that “everything went great” Monday and that he’s “very proud of the county for their response to this.” He praised the “inter-agency cooperation” of the Sheriff’s Office, Code Enforcement, Public Works, and the Town of Jonesville which he said enabled the county to effectively and efficiently respond to the situation.
Even though the county was taking the steps recommended by DHEC to prevent further infections, the press release issued by Hart states that individuals should pay attention to the most effective ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile Virus. Those steps include:
• Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting. Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions.
• Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes.
• Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, including flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.
• Wear light-colored clothing to cover the skin reduces the risk of bites.
The DHEC website adds that “exposure to mosquitoes is most common during the early morning. Some species bite during the day, especially in wooded or other shaded areas. Avoid exposure during these times and in these areas.”
The DHEC website states that “most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms. About one in five people infected becomes ill within two to 14 days with symptoms including fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and occasionally nausea and vomiting. Often they experience sensitivity to light and inflammation of the eyelids. Some may have a rash.”
It stresses that “the risk of serious illness is low. Less than one percent of people infected develop a potentially fatal swelling of the brain, known as encephalitis.”
When asked about the condition of the Jonesville resident who had the virus, Hart said that because of patient confidentiality he had no information on it.
The website states that “there is no specific cure for West Nile virus. In mild cases, you should use the same remedies you would for other viruses, such as the flu: drinking plenty of water and fluids, resting in bed, and taking medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve fever and discomfort. In more severe cases treatment may include hospitalization, respiratory support and intravenous therapy.”
It recommends that “anyone experiencing severe or unusual headaches should see a doctor as soon as possible. Also, anyone who has been in an area where the virus has been identified and who experiences high fever, muscle weakness, confusion or severe headaches should see a doctor immediately.”
The website states that “West Nile virus cannot be passed from person to person. The only way to get the virus is from the bite of an infected mosquito.”
It points out that “the virus actually starts with a bird, usually a crow. It spreads when a mosquito bites a bird that has the virus in their blood. The mosquito then can spread the virus to other birds, animals or people, when it bites during feeding. In areas where the virus has been identified, very few, much less than 1%, of the mosquitoes are infected.”
The website states that the public can help DHEC track the virus “by submitting dead blue jays, crows, house sparrows, and house finches for testing. Instructions on how to safely pick up and transport a bird to the closest DHEC local county health department or Environmental Quality Control office is available online at scdhec.gov/birdtesting.”
DHEC is accepting submission of birds for testing through Nov. 30.
The press release states that persons wanting more information “about preventing mosquito bites and the spread of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses,” should go to www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. It also states that to “learn more about West Nile virus at www.scdhec.gov/westnile. Residents with additional questions may contact Union County at 864-427-8481.”
For more about this story, see upcoming editions of The Union Times and online at our website (www.uniondailytimes.com) and our Facebook page.
Charles Warner can be contacted at 864-762-4090.