COLUMBIA -- While the calendar might say it's fall, the weather says otherwise - and that means mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses are still a problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus cases have been reported in people from 46 states, with approximately 1,295 cases, including 67 deaths so far in 2017, compared to 2,038 human cases and 94 deaths in 2016. 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. One person has died from the infection," said Linda Bell, M.D., state epidemiologist at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental control.
Human cases have been confirmed in Anderson, Beaufort, Greenville, Horry, Laurens, Lexington, Richland, Spartanburg, 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.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so it is crucial to take steps to remove areas around your property where water can accumulate:
• Clear out weeds, leaves, dirt, and other debris from pipes, especially those under a driveway. Make sure that water does not stand inside or near the ends of the pipe.
• Clean out rain gutters and downspouts regularly. 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, etc.
• Drain or fill any low places, such as potholes, on your property where water collects and stands for more than five to seven days.
In addition, it is also important to mow the lawn, trim shrubbery, and cut down weeds to remove areas where adult mosquitoes can find cool, dark, and damp areas to rest.
"The risk of serious illness or death from West Nile virus is low. Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms," said Dr. Bell.
About one in five people infected 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.
"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. It's very important to continue protecting yourself and your family during these days of warm fall weather to avoid mosquito-borne disease," said Dr. Bell.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus, or IR 3535 according to label instructions. Repellents help keep mosquitoes from biting.
• Wear clothing that reduces the risk of skin exposure.
• 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.