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West Nile virus detected in Richland County bird; DHEC urges residents to prevent mosquito bites


July 18, 2017

West Nile virus detected in Richland County bird; DHEC urges residents to prevent mosquito bites

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Richland County, and City of Columbia officials announced today that a bird in Richland County has tested positive for West Nile virus.

"Identifying birds carrying West Nile virus in our state is not uncommon," said Chris Evans, Ph.D. and DHEC's staff entomologist. "Birds pass the virus on to mosquitos, which can then infect humans. Positive identifications serve as an important reminder to preventing mosquito bites. It's the most important step you can take to prevent the spread of illness from mosquitoes to people."

"The vast majority of people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms," said Linda Bell, M.D. and DHEC's state epidemiologist. "Serious illness such as encephalitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, will only occur in less than one percent of people infected."

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus disease?

  • No symptoms in most people. Most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. West Nile virus can be spread to mosquitoes if infected individuals are bitten, even if they have no symptoms. West Nile virus is not spread from person to person.
  • Febrile illness in some people. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
  • Severe symptoms in a few people. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.
    *This information was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

"If you have been exposed to mosquitoes and have concerns about the virus or develop symptoms, you should contact your health care provider," Bell said.

"There have been no confirmed transmissions of West Nile virus to humans here in Richland County. There has been one human transmission of West Nile virus in South Carolina this year, in Beaufort County," said Nick Davidson, Director of Community Health Services. "We will continue to monitor going forward."

DHEC was notified July 17 of a virus-positive bird taken from Downtown Columbia, which has many homes, an active business district, and nightlife.

"Mosquitoes that carry this virus are typically active at night, but can also be active at dusk and dawn and in shady areas during the day," Evans said. "DHEC partners with cities and counties across the state to help trap and identify mosquitoes carrying diseases that can be spread to people.

"West Nile virus actually starts with a bird," he said. "Which then spreads when a mosquito bites a bird that has the virus in their blood. The mosquito can then spread the virus to other birds, animals, or people, when it bites during feeding."

"Beginning Monday night and continuing on Wednesday night we are strategically applying adulticide (spray) in a two mile radius from the original location of the bird," said Tammy Brewer, Director of Richland County Vector Control. "Spraying will begin in this area at night, 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM, in a manner to optimize the efficiency of the area to be covered, with minimal exposure to people."

DHEC recommends residents pay attention to the most effective ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • 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 at night and 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.
  • 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.

Officials emphasize the public plays a vital role in controlling the spread of all mosquito-borne diseases.

Dead birds can help DHEC and local partners track West Nile virus. Residents can report the finding of dead birds to DHEC. Learn how here. The Department is currently accepting submission of birds through November 30, 2017.

For more information about preventing mosquito bites and the spread of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, go to Learn more about West Nile virus at


Media contacts:

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Public Information
Jeff Taillon - (803) 898-3253,

City of Columbia Public Information
Leshia Utsey - (803) 422-3657,

Richland County Public Information
Beverly Harris - (803) 576-2065,


DHEC Media Relations
(803) 898-7769


DHEC News Release Media Relations