New York AG Going After Companies Shilling Ineffective Zika Prevention Products

With new cases of Zika virus linked to local mosquitos popping up for the first time in the U.S. down in Florida, some folks are no doubt looking for something to knock out those bad bugs. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says not all Zika prevention products out there are equal, and he’ll be going after companies that peddle ineffective products like ultrasonic devices and supposed Zika-banishing wristbands and patches.

The mosquito that carries Zika isn’t common in New York, as illustrated in these maps from the Centers for Disease Control, but Schneiderman notes that because more than 20% of the Zika cases in the U.S. have been reported in New York (largely travel-related), there are understandably many folks, especially pregnant women due to the risk of birth defects, who are concerned.

“New Yorkers are understandably concerned about Zika virus and looking for ways to protect themselves and their families,” Schneiderman said. “Unfortunately, some companies are taking advantage of public concern about Zika to peddle products that simply don’t work. My office will not tolerate deceptive advertising of products that provide only a false sense of security against a real threat.”

To that end, Schneiderman announced the state has sent cease-and-desist letters to seven companies who have been advertising bogus or ineffective insect repellants to get a slice of the Zika-panic pie, ordering them to “stop advertising these products as Zika protective or Zika preventive.” His office has also been in touch with the online platforms these companies use to sell their products.

“Unfortunately there are some companies who are taking advantage of customers’ concern for their families,” Schneiderman says, noting that using EPA registered insect repellants is the only approved method for banishing mosquitoes that may carry the virus.

Among the ineffective products out there: ultrasonic devices that say they can repel rodents and mosquitoes, and “I don’t know, gamma rays coming from Martians,” Schneiderman joked. The CDC specifically advised that these devices don’t work, he says.

“Research shows research shows that ultrasound devices had no significant effect,” Schneiderman said, and instead, some studies found they actually attract mosquitoes.

The lack of evidence that these things work hasn’t stopped “some scammers from taking advantage of the understandable public concern, and some cases, panic about” Zika, Schneiderman says. These products are popping everywhere, as well, including in the kinds of small stores prevalent in the city that sell smoking accessories.

“Don’t buy medical products in head shops,” Schneiderman noted wryly. “That’s just basic consumer protection.”

Here’s the list of products Schneiderman’s office says are currently being sold that claim to prevent Zika virus, without containing any CDC-approved active ingredients:

• Wildheart Outdoors Natural Mosquito Repellent Bracelet
• MosQUITo Repellent Bracelet Wristband Band
• Neor Mosquito Repellent Bracelet
• Kenza High Quality Zika Mosquito Repellent Smiley Patch
• Mobile Pro Gear ZIKA Shield Mosquito Repellent Bands
• STAR Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
• iGear iGuard 2.0 Ultrasonic Insect Pest Repellent

“None of this stuff works,” Schneiderman adds. “New Yorkers are smart, we’ve got to be really smart about protecting ourselves here.”

Instead, per the CDC, consumers should look for repellants containing DEET, Picardin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.