Risk of Zika infection is low at high altitudes, CDC says

By Rachael Rettner
March 16, 2016, 5:05:21 AM EDT


Pregnant women may not need to avoid travel to all areas where the Zika virus is spreading -- health officials say that, in high elevations, there is a low risk of becoming infected with the virus.

The new recommendations, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, come after the agency analyzed data from 16 countries with elevations above 4,900 feet (1,500 meters). They found that the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus, known as Aedes aegypti, is unlikely to live in areas above 6,500 feet (2,000 m).

"Consequently, at elevations above [6,500 feet], the risk for mosquito-borne exposure to Zika virus is considered to be minimal," researchers from the CDC said in a report published today (March 11).

Health officials are concerned about a link between Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby's head is abnormally small. The CDC now recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to areas that have Zika virus and are less than 6,500 feet below sea level. (The CDC's previous recommendation was a blanket warning against travel to these areas for pregnant women.)

The agency has even created maps of each of the 37 countries where Zika is spreading, and indicated which areas are above 6,500 feet. (The maps can be found within the travel notice for each country.)

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