ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's attorney general is targeting companies that advertise ineffective insect repellents to cash in on concerns over the Zika virus.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday his office has sent letters to seven companies, telling them to stop marketing products as "Zika-preventive" or "Zika-protective." He's also issued a consumer alert to state residents about deceptive practices. The companies are located in California, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oregon, England and the Czech Republic.
"Our goal is to get this stuff off the market," Schneiderman said. If they persist his office will seek damages, he said.
The tropical mosquito that carries Zika is not found in New York yet. But 537 people infected with the virus have been confirmed in the state, all apparently connected to travel to affected areas, New York health officials said Tuesday. Five cases were sexually transmitted.
The Zika virus has been coursing through Latin America and the Caribbean. More than a dozen Zika cases in a Miami neighborhood are believed to be the first mosquito-transmitted cases in the mainland U.S.
"There're no magic objects that will keep mosquitoes at bay," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, who joined Schneiderman in discussing the Zika threat.
But repellants can provide protection. Those with long-lasting effect contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC lists several brand names on its website. Bassett said many of these are available at pharmacies, and in travel size.
Bassett urged women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. She said the risk of serious birth defects is real. People in Zika-affected areas are advised to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellent.
The attorney general advised consumers to avoid ultrasonic and botanical mosquito repellents, as well as Vitamin B-based repellents, saying studies have found these to be ineffective.
The office listed the 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 and iGear iGuard 2.0 Ultrasonic Insect Pest Repellent.