People should take steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus because more cases of the potentially deadly disease are being reported, health officials said Wednesday.

“We felt it necessary for folks to understand that the threat of West Nile Virus is still out there,” said Jim Beasley, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The number of people who have been infected with the virus now stands at 41 statewide, including two cases in Charleston County and one in Berkeley County. That is up from 28 cases reported in South Carolina about three weeks ago. Three deaths caused by West Nile happened in August in Aiken, Darlington and Cherokee counties. Until this year, only one person in South Carolina had died from West Nile in more than a decade of tracking the disease.

“Mosquitoes can be active in the fall, even after extended periods of cold weather,” said Chris

Evans, an entomologist with the DHEC Bureau of Laboratories.

Insect repellant containing DEET and protective clothing are recommended, particularly in the early morning and evening when exposure to mosquitoes is most common, DHEC said. Doors and windows should have tight-fitting screens. Eliminate standing water in places such as tire ruts, flowerpots, old car tires, rain gutters and pet bowls.

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