Preventing West Nile in Horry County

SC West Nile Virus stats as of 8/23/12
SC West Nile Virus stats as of 8/23/12

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) State and local officials are taking steps to make sure you're safe from the West Nile Virus.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has documented 15 cases in humans so far.  In Horry County, some experts, like Clemson Extension Natural Resources Agent Ben Powell, say there are plenty of potential carriers.

"The [mosquitoes] that carry west Nile are actually more than you might expect," Powell says. "It's actually a pretty lengthy list, most of the genera we have of larger groups of mosquitoes have the potential to carry [West Nile]."

Couple the high number of potential carriers with unusual weather, and conditions could be ripe for an outbreak in Horry county.

"This year is a peculiar year because we had an early spring; things got warm early," Powell explained. "It didn't mean there's more mosquitoes, it just meant mosquitoes and other insects got started early."

Horry County and municipalities within are spraying pesticide by land and by air to cut down on mosquitoes to kill potential west Nile carriers. But it's not just mosquitoes and humans who get the virus.

"West Nile is an interesting disease in that the disease is actually harbored in birds," Powell says. "Mosquitoes have to go bite a bird and then come bite a human to transfer the disease between the two."

To track the progress of the virus in South Carolina, the state DHEC is testing anyone or anything that might show symptoms.

"People of South Carolina can submit mosquitoes, submit dead birds, or submit themselves if they feel like they're showing symptoms of west Nile," Powell stressed.

Health officials suggest taking some mild precautions in Horry County at this point, such as wearing long sleeves clothes, using bug spray and getting rid of standing water.

As of this posting, more than 1,100 people have been infected with West Nile Virus in the United States, and 41 people died from the disease.

If you'd like to submit yourself, a mosquito or a bird to be tested for West Nile, more information on how and where can found on the South Carolina DHEC website.

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