Nature has thrown moms another curve-ball. Despite the fact that the Zika Virus has been around for 60 years, surprisingly little is known about the mosquito-born illness, but—with the recent connection between this virus and devastating birth defects—the information we do have is alarming, to say the least.

In order to better protect yourself and your family from this virus, it’s important to understand the risks. So here are the facts to put Zika on your radar—and the tips to keep it out of your home.

Quick Zika Facts

If you own a television, you’ve no-doubt heard about the virus’ connection to microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition in which a baby is born with a significantly smaller head than the average newborn. This condition is often caused by abnormal brain development while the baby is in-utero and is frequently linked to developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and many other neurological problems.

While the risk of microcephaly is limited to growing fetuses, the majority of those infected with Zika experience a mild, short-term illness, characterized by fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Some people also report muscle pain and headache. These symptoms can last for a couple of days to a week and typically resolve without further issues.

At this time, it is believed that once you are infected with Zika you are likely protected from future infections. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that a Zika infection, in women who are not pregnant, poses any concerns for future pregnancies.

Like any other virus, Zika must run it’s course. There is currently no vaccine or treatment available. While the severity of the virus differs from person to person, the symptoms are reportedly the same for adults and children.  

So how can you protect yourself and your family?

Protecting your Family

1. Avoid travel to areas where Zika is active.

Currently, Zika Virus is active in several regions, including the majority of South America, and has traveled as far north as Florida, USA. Other US states have reported cases of Zika virus, but those infections occurred during travel or via sex. 

2. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.

If you must travel to an area where Zika is present, clothing and insect repellent can be used to limit your risk. Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, and use insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin.

You can learn more about safe insect repellents here. There are several safe options for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, but use of insect repellent on children younger than two months is not recommended.

If possible, stay indoors to limit your exposure to mosquitos.

3. Protect your living space.

Keep doors and windows closed to prevent mosquitos from entering your living environment.

Mosquitos are drawn to water, and use it to lay eggs during reproduction. Outdoor items which collect still water (like bird baths) should be avoided. After a rain shower, remember to check outdoor toys and other items for standing water, and dry or empty as necessary.

4. Protect yourself.

If you or your partner has traveled to an area were Zika is present, remember to use condoms or abstain from sex to prevent transmission, specifically if pregnancy is a factor.

Educating yourself is the best way to stay ahead of the game and keep your family safe.

If you have concerns about the Zika virus or any other health related issues, contact your family doctor. You can learn more about the Zika virus by visiting the Center for Disease Control Website .