Zika virus appears in SC as Horry officials discuss mosquito control


Weekly aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes this summer would cost millions of dollars and won’t prevent an outbreak of the Zika virus, say Horry County officials.

With a mosquito control budget of more than $400,000 for this year, and the weekly cost of aerial spraying at $600,000, officials say the focus must be on public education and enforcing measures to get rid of the bug’s hatching pools in abandoned cars and old tires.

The Horry County Council discussed strategies to deal with growing health problems caused by mosquitoes including the Zika, West Nile, and Dengue virus, during a budget retreat Thursday.

The first case of travel-associated Zika virus was confirmed in the state Friday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

The unnamed South Carolina resident recently traveled to a country where the virus is active, however the person was not contagious upon their return and poses no risk to public health or of transmitting the virus to mosquitoes in the state, according to DHEC. Mosquitoes in South Carolina do not carry the Zika virus at this time.

State health officials cited patient confidentiality in not disclosing any information about the South Carolina resident, including where they live.

During a recent Zika forum, DHEC officials said that if a case of localized Zika virus is confirmed, local officials would be notified.

Among the options weighed by county officials during this week’s budget talks is whether it will be necessary to encroach on private property to ensure mosquito breeding areas are eliminated.

Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge said that in Key West, Florida, teams of local officials walk through backyards to point out hatching grounds to property owners, that can include standing liquid in a water bottle cap.

“We will certainly look at all possibilities,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said after the meeting.

County officials already have the authority to clean up public property where breeding ground waste is disposed, and enforce codes on businesses that are not properly disposing of tires. “As far as going on someone’s private property around their homes, right now we don’t do something like that,” Lazarus said. “We will try to educate, tell people to empty pots or a water bottle that’s sitting out attracting mosquitoes, and to clean your gutters.”

As far as going on someone’s private property around their homes, right now we don’t do something like that.

Mark Lazarus, chairman, Horry County Council

More than 350 Americans have been diagnosed with the Zika virus spread by mosquitoes, which was contracted while traveling abroad.

The disease is not deadly, but can cause birth defects in children born from infected mothers in which the baby’s head has formed too small. Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis and lasts for several days, but has not resulted in serious illness for the carrier.

Current funding for regular mosquito control is adequate, but Lazarus said more money could be added at a later date.

“If there’s an outbreak, we will obviously be paying attention and we will add dollars to it,” Lazarus said.

$400,000Mosquito control budget

In addition to regular spraying activities conducted by the county, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, various homeowners associations throughout the area are adding larvicide to ditches to cut down the population.

Council members suggested that an outbreak of the Zika virus could affect tourism as well as public health.

“Just like we have hurricane preparedness, just like we do with any other disaster, come an outbreak, we need a plan,” said Councilman Johnny Vaught.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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