Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel alerts for destinations where Zika is spreading will now include recommendations specific to travel at elevations above and below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). As a result of these changes, CDC’s regional notices have been revised to destination-specific notices.
Starting in January 2016, CDC issued level 2 travel health notices for several countries where local vector-borne transmission of Zika virus infection has been reported. Local vector-borne transmission means that mosquitoes in an area are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people. Specific areas with Zika are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. As more information becomes available, travel notices are updated.
CDC today released 37 destination-specific Zika travel notices; for destinations with areas above 6,500 feet, the notices include elevation maps and additional information about the risk of Zika virus infection at these elevations. CDC recently examined historical reports of the mosquito species linked to Zika and dengue virus, which is spread by the same mosquito, and found that reports of both mosquitoes and dengue were rare for locations above 6,500 feet.
These new maps show, for each country, the areas above and below 6,500 feet. The maps are intended to help travelers determine if the location(s) they plan to visit are above the elevation at which the mosquitos are likely to be found. Travelers whose itineraries are limited to areas above 6,500 feet are at minimal risk of getting Zika from a mosquito.
Although the Zika-associated mosquitos are likely not found at these higher elevations, mosquitoes are not the only way that Zika virus is spread. Sexual transmission is also possible, and CDC recommends travelers read information available at CDC’s Zika website and speak with a health care provider before traveling to affected areas.
CDC reminds travelers to educate themselves with information before the trip and to protect themselves with these actions during the trip:
• Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE, also known as para-menthane-diol [PMD]), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
o Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
o Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children older than 2 months. (OLE should not be used on children younger than 3 years.)
• Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
• Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
Some travelers to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission will become infected while traveling but will not become sick until they return home. Many travelers who are infected will not have any symptoms. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in their blood, it can spread the virus by biting another person. To help stop the spread of Zika, all travelers should use insect repellent for three weeks after travel to prevent mosquito bites.
CDC has specific precautions for pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant:
• Pregnant women should not travel to any area below 6,500 feet where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
• If a pregnant woman must travel to or lives in one of these areas, she should talk to her healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
• If a pregnant woman has a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area where Zika transmission is ongoing, they should either use condoms the right way every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy.
Women trying to get pregnant
• Before a woman who is trying to get pregnant or her male partner travels, she should talk to her healthcare provider about her plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
• She and her male partner should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported in patients with probable Zika virus infection in several countries. Research efforts underway will also examine the link between Zika and GBS. For more information on Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.