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Questions and Answers: Zika risk at high elevations

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What is the risk of getting Zika at high elevations?

The mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). Travelers who plan to be only in areas above this elevation are at a very low risk of getting Zika from a mosquito. Travelers are still at risk of sexual transmission of Zika from a male partner who has been in areas with local transmission.

What if I am flying into an airport at a low elevation in an area with Zika but then immediately driving to a high elevation?

You would still be at risk of getting Zika from a mosquito bite while you were at the low elevation. You should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while in these areas.

I am going to an area that looks like it is in the high-elevation zone, but your map is not detailed enough for me to see for certain. Is this destination in the risk area?

Talk to your doctor about your risk of Zika in the area where you are traveling. Travelers to destinations that cross or are near an elevation border may consider the destination as an area of lower elevation and follow recommendations for travel to areas with Zika.

What source of elevation data did you use to create the maps? Where can I look up elevation data for my destination?

Most of our maps were made based on the Global Multi-resolution Terrain Elevation Data 2010 (GMTED 2010), and for small countries we used the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) elevation dataset. The US government does not maintain or endorse a specific elevation lookup service, but various resources can be found on the internet.

What data sources did you use to show that mosquitoes do not usually live above 6,500 feet?

Aedes species mosquitoes, the mosquitoes that carry Zika, live in areas with certain ecological conditions (temperature, rainfall patterns, local plant growth, and human population density). CDC used elevation data to predict areas where the Aedes mosquitoes are unlikely to live. Our findings show that Aedes mosquitoes are not usually found above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).

What do you recommend for pregnant women who decide to travel to high elevations in an area with Zika?

The risk of getting Zika from a mosquito at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) is minimal. However, traveling through an area of low elevation or stopping, even briefly, in a low elevation area on the way to higher elevation increases the risk of getting Zika from a mosquito, and pregnant woman should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while in these areas. Pregnant women traveling to these areas should use condoms or not have sex with men who may have traveled to lower elevations in an area with Zika. Pregnant women should also be alert to changes in their travel plans that may take them to elevations below 6,500 feet.

Besides Zika, is it safe for pregnant women to travel to high elevations?

The low oxygen levels found at high elevations can cause problems for travelers who are going to elevations above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). The best way to prevent altitude illness is to ascend slowly and take time to get used to the lower oxygen levels. Pregnant women should avoid strenuous activities at high elevations, and some doctors recommend that pregnant women not spend the night at altitudes above 12,000 feet (3,650 meters). Pregnant women should also consider whether they will have access to medical care at a high-elevation destination.

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