Although one could argue whether a Texas winter is truly a winter at all, the season has officially ended. With the warmer temperatures of spring will come a boom the population of a common and potentially dangerous pest — mosquitoes.

That’s why we at the Galveston County Health District want to make sure you know the best ways to protect yourself, your community and family from mosquito-borne illness, including Zika. The key is simple; avoid mosquito bites. We recommend the “3-Ds” method.

Defend: Apply EPA-approved insect repellent when outside to defend against mosquitoes. If you’ve recently traveled to an area with active Zika transmission, it’s important to use repellent every time you go outside for at least three weeks to avoid infecting mosquitoes here at home. Use screens or close windows and doors to help keep mosquitoes out of your home. The annoying pests don’t like cool air, so using air-conditioning helps, too.

Dress: If you’re going to be spending time outside, dress in pants and long sleeve shirts. Yes, it may be uncomfortable in the heat, but it helps reduce the amount of exposed skin mosquitoes can attack. You could also to treat your clothes with permethrin spray, an insect repellent.

Drain: Mosquitos breed in water, even the smallest of amounts. Removing standing water from around your home will help reduce breeding grounds. Take a walk around your property, look for anything that holds water and drain it. Flower pots, trash cans and buckets are common culprits. When it rains, do it again.

About 80 percent of people who are infected with Zika do not have symptoms, but those who do may experience fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes. If you have these symptoms you should see your doctor, especially if you’ve recently traveled to an area with active Zika transmission. Most people recover from the infection in less than a week.

The main threat with Zika virus is its devastating effects on pregnancies. The virus can be spread from mother to child if the mother is infected with Zika during pregnancy. Zika has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected and can cause developmental delays.

Those who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant need to be sure to take precautions against infection. There is also evidence Zika can be transmitted sexually. Women who have sex partners who’ve traveled to areas with active Zika transmission should properly use condoms or avoid sex during pregnancy. We urge people who fall into these categories to consult with their doctor.

You’ll soon start seeing our “Fight the Bite with the 3-Ds” messages in many places including local movie theaters, newspapers and billboards. The idea is to get the message in front of as many eyes as frequently as possible. We also have a wealth of resources available at www.gchd.org/zika.

Together we can help greatly reduce the risk of local Zika transmission here in our community.

Dr. Philip Keiser is the Galveston County Local Health Authority.

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