As the Zika virus spreads, wristbands and patches being touted as protection against the disease have been flooding the market. Now, the New York attorney general’s office is cracking down on the companies it considers to be the worst offenders.
The office has ordered seven marketers to stop deceptively advertising their insect repellent products, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday morning. None of the seven targeted products contain ingredients like DEET and picaridin recommended by federal health officials, Schneiderman’s office said.
“They’re lying to consumers, exploiting fears about a real public health crisis, just to make a buck, and we’re not going to put up with it,” Schneiderman told reporters from a podium adorned with a placard reading “STOPPING ZIKA SCAMS.”
By way of example, Schneiderman held up a pack of wristbands marketed as offering “360 hour total protection.” He called the product, sold as Zika Shield by entrepreneurs who had previously been selling selfie sticks, “useless.”
Schneiderman saved his harshest criticism for products targeting parents who want to protect their young children, calling some such marketing campaigns “absolutely shameless.” Wristbands advertised online by Wildheart Outdoors with the phrase “Zika virus protection” and a photo of a baby, he said, are “about as low as you can go,” Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman also issued a warning about unproven repellent products made of vitamin B, and those that claim to ward off mosquitoes by emitting a high-frequency buzzing noise. Consumers should instead buy one of the hundreds of repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as safe and effective for warding off mosquitoes.
Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes but can also be transmitted through sexual contact. New York City has seen 387 Zika cases associated with travel to areas where mosquitoes carrying the disease are prevalent. Forty-five of of those cases have involved pregnant women.
The makers of two products called out by Schneiderman, Zika Shield and Wildheart Outdoors, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Schneiderman said his office has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that the Federal Trade Commission is also “getting engaged.” The FTC recently fined the maker of mint oil-infused wristbands that claimed to create a long-lasting five-foot shield of protection from mosquitoes. (That product didn’t make any specific claims around Zika.)