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5 high-elevation travel hot spots where Zika-carrying mosquitoes can't survive

By By Katy Galimberti, Staff Writer
June 06, 2016, 10:05:57 AM EDT

Across South America, the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus has scared tourists and prompted travel warnings throughout the region.

Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant have been strongly warned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit travel to infected areas.

While scientists continue to study the virus and its direct threats, links to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome have sparked fear for natives and tourists in affected areas.

However, the Aedes species mosquitoes, which carry Zika, are not typically found in locations at an elevation higher than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).

The risk of getting Zika is "minimal" when that high above sea level, the CDC said.

In higher elevation areas, temperatures are lower, preventing the mosquitoes from invading, Peter Armbruster, Ph.D., associate professor of of biology at Georgetown University, said.

While there are some hot spots that sit at or above the mosquito-free elevation areas, the necessary in-between travel could pose a threat.

Armbruster said if people spend time traveling around cities in transit to higher elevation areas, they need to take the proper precautions that the CDC recommends. While pregnant women face a minimal risk of being infected by the Zika virus at these elevation areas, the high altitude can be hazardous at times.

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According to the CDC, pregnant women should "avoid strenuous activity" at an elevation of 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) or more. Some may want to avoid staying overnight at any of these areas and should also consider the kind of medical attention that will be available.

While the CDC says Zika will spread, where and how much is unpredictable.

For those who still have their heart set on South American travel, here are some high-elevation areas devoid of Zika-carrying mosquitoes:

Bogotá, Colombia- 8,660 feet (2,640 meters)


In Colombia's bustling capital, tourists have plenty to see in the country's largest city. With El Dorado International Airport within the city limits, travelers don't have to worry about Aedes mosquitoes.

Quito, Ecuador- 9,350 feet (2,850 meters)


Ecuador's capital was constructed on the ruins of an ancient Incan city and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It is one of the least-altered historic centers in South America, according to UNESCO.

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La Paz, Bolivia- 11,975 feet (3,650 meters)


Infamous for its high altitude, travelers to La Paz will find themselves in the highest administrative capital in the world. El Alto International Airport is the highest international airport in the world, erasing the chance of coming into contact with a Zika-carrying mosquito.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia- 11,995 feet (3,656 meters)


Home to the world's largest salt flat, tourists flock to this area in southwest Bolivia.

Machu Pichu, Peru- 7972 feet (2,430 meters)


One of the most iconic travel destinations in South America, Machu Pichu sits at a high elevation and is free from Zika-carrying mosquitoes. However, travelers should be cautious when venturing to the destination and follow CDC precautions such as wearing long sleeves and pants and applying mosquito repellant.

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