The 2016 Summer Olympics are rapidly approaching. As such, travelers from around the world will descend onto Rio De Janeiro to marvel as the greatest athletes in the world compete for glory on the world stage. As millions of travelers organize their itineraries, an outbreak of Zika virus has spread across Brazil and surrounding South American countries. Many people fear the outbreak will spread as others scramble to determine whether or not to keep travel plans intact. For those who plan on traveling to Zika hot zones, here is some information: What is the Zika Virus? Zika virus is a mosquito-spread disease without an explicit current treatment or vaccine. Individuals infected with Zika virus experience flu-like symptoms, particularly fever, rash, sluggishness, joint pain, and body and headache. These symptoms are normally present for a period of a few days to a week, although they may intensify in some cases. Presently, Zika virus is treated similar to a regular fever and illness; lots of rest, fluids and regular medication. Where can I get it? Zika virus is spread primarily by mosquitoes. Other transmission forms are still being studied as people attempt to avoid a widespread outbreak. While incidences of Zika virus have occurred in Africa and Southeast Asia in the past, the present outbreak exists in the northern half of South America, as well as Central America. If possible, avoid traveling to these areas while the outbreak is present. Why is it so concerning? While the immediate effects of Zika Virus are relatively mild, the long-term consequences may be of higher cost. The most recent, and disturbing of which, has been the higher incidence of microcephaly in areas with a similarly high Zika virus infection rate. Pregnant women have been warned to take severe precautions and avoid unnecessary risk such as traveling to highly affected Zika virus regions, as the possible link between the virus and microcephaly is poorly understood at this time. Microcephaly occurs during pregnancy as the baby’s brain does not fully develop, subsequently the baby’s head grows less, and a myriad of other complications can occur after birth, including developmental problems, chronic conditions, and functional issues. As the link between the Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly is not characterized, pregnant families must consider the dangers when traveling in a high risk region. How do I avoid it? If avoiding a hot zone is not possible, then prevention becomes the main concern. Since mosquitoes carry the disease and spread the virus, taking steps to stop mosquito bites and breeding is currently the best method for staying Zika free. Wearing mosquito repellant, wearing clothing that covers more skin, using a mosquito net when sleeping, and using screens and doors as much as possible all limit a mosquitoes ability to propagate the virus. Mosquitoes breed in humid environments, especially with a prevalence of stagnant water. As such, emptying cups and buckets where still water collects may help limit the breeding farms for mosquitoes and reduce the frequency of Zika-bearing individuals. To combat mosquito spread on a grander scale, insecticides might be utilized in an attempt to eradicate possible disease carriers in hot zones. The Traveler’s Verdict: The Zika virus is a danger to anyone traveling in a region of outbreak, especially pregnant families or those considering children. While steps may be taken to avoid mosquito bites, one must weigh the costs and benefits before traveling to an affected region. If travel is necessary, then make sure to pack a mosquito net, plenty of repellent and long clothes with a lot of skin coverage to minimize risk. Make sure to consider all TSA guidelines when packing liquids and medications. Most importantly, be smart, and stay safe!