Beaufort News

There are no Zika cases in Beaufort or Jasper counties. So where are they?

A map of confirmed, travel-related Zika virus cases in South Carolina, as of Aug. 26, 2016.
A map of confirmed, travel-related Zika virus cases in South Carolina, as of Aug. 26, 2016. S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

There are no confirmed cases of Zika virus in Beaufort or Jasper counties, according to new information South Carolina health officials released Friday afternoon.

The state’s 43 travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus are located in 12 counties, including eight in Charleston, seven in Lexington and Greenville, six in Richland and four in Dorchester, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

On Friday afternoon, Yanity said DHEC decided to release the county-level data to better inform residents and enhance preparedness for and awareness of the virus.

“With the increase in the number of travel-associated Zika cases in South Carolina and the multiple locations of local transmission in Florida, public concern has grown,” he wrote in an email.

The information will be updated online monthly, he said.

Previously, DHEC had refused to name the counties in which there were cases of the virus, citing concerns that news media would use that information to track down patients

“At this point, they’re not health concerns,” spokesman Robert Yanity said of South Carolina’s Zika cases on Friday morning. “There’s no reason to give out more information, and we want to protect the privacy of the people involved.”

He explained that DHEC was being “overly cautious,” and admitted it would not violate HIPAA to disclose the number of cases in each county.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Coastal Health District — a division of the Georgia Department of Public Health — confirmed there were three cases of travel-related Zika just across the South Carolina border in Chatham County, and three more in Camden, Liberty and Long counties.

Spokesman Sally Silverman added that residents should do what they can to prevent the spread of the virus, including using bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants, and frequently emptying any containers of standing water to discourage mosquito breeding.

“We’re living it, breathing it, preaching the protection part of it every day,” she said.

Only one species of mosquito found in Beaufort County, aedes albopictus, is capable of spreading the virus by biting a person who is sick, becoming infected and biting other people.

Beaufort County’s Mosquito Control Program is still awaiting test results to determine whether local insects have Zika. To date, the only cases of local transmission in the United States — people contracting Zika after being bitten by local mosquitoes — have occurred in Florida.

Rebecca Lurye: 843-706-8155, @IPBG_Rebecca

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