It is that time of the year when vibrant bikinis appear in wardrobes of dark clothing and shorts are dug out from beneath the heaps of sweaters and mufflers. It is the time when hitting the gym seems more important than spending hours at the library, and smoothies start replacing the usual go-to order at Panda Express during meal hours. It is officially spring break time.

Zika virus is threatening spring breakers who planned on traveling to Latin American countries. ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF.

Zika virus is threatening spring breakers who planned on traveling to Latin American countries. ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF.

Students all over the United States were booked and ready to hit the beaches in and around Mexico around this time last year, but this year, the situation is more complicated. A factor that has to be taken into account when picking your spring break destination for this March’s break is the Zika virus. The virus has taken parts of Latin America and most of South America by storm.

Zika is a disease spread through the bite of a certain species of infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms include fever, rash and joint pain, to name a few. The virus has been in the news due to how it’s been affecting pregnancies and causing birth defects in children. It’s been around for a while now, having been discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda, according to the CDC.

However, the CDC website states that in 2015, the Zika virus made its way into South America via Brazil. Ever since its advent into the Americas, Zika has become a common threat and is feared by many.

With Zika practically making the headlines more than Donald Trump, planning spring break has been a nightmarish task for students. We all know how enticing it is to book early, with all the discounts and bundle deals making life sweeter. But this year, I have seen nearly all my friends struggle with this chore.

Speaking from an international point of view, I know the endeavor of trying to get your parents who are sitting across the Atlantic to be on the same page as your friends who are happy to return to school with a fever so long as they get to rage during the break. The struggle is very, very real.

Colleges and universities are actively trying to inform their students about the virus before they head off for their spring break adventures. Though, it is a long shot to assume that students who do not read the news will check out college-related material, at least it is a step toward prevention. The health center at Iowa State University released a page with facts about the virus and its symptoms on its website. Rice University also urged its students to remain vigilant of the disease while they travel for spring break.

My advice to my fellow students preparing to depart for spring break is to read up on the virus and make an informed decision when choosing your destination. California, Florida and the Bahamas have beaches too. Just saying.