New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued cease-and-desist letters to companies marketing ineffective products that falsely promise protection against the Zika virus.
On Wednesday, Schneiderman announced that the letters went to seven companies who advertised ultrasonic devices or botanical oil-based products as “Zika-protective” or “Zika-preventive” because they would repel mosquitoes when, in fact, the products have not been shown to effectively deter the insects.
"Unfortunately, some companies are taking advantage of public concern about Zika to peddle products that simply don’t work," Schneiderman said. "My office will not tolerate deceptive advertising of products that provide only a false sense of security against a real threat."
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The ultrasonic devices claimed to work by emitting a high frequency that supposedly repels mosquitoes, but the attorney general's office stated that such devices do not ward off mosquitoes and may actually attract them. The botanical oil-based products targeted by Schneiderman, which included wristbands, patches and stickers, claimed to contain chemicals effective at deterring mosquitoes, but none of their ingredients were officially registered by the EPA as repellents.
"The only products that provide effective protection from mosquito bites contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and an insect repellent called IR3535 — all other products are a waste of money and may put you at risk of being bitten," Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said.
The products targeted by Schneiderman that claimed to protect against the Zika virus included the Wildheart Outdoors Natural Mosquito Repellent Bracelet, MosQUITo Repellent Bracelet Wristband, 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.
"It is completely unacceptable for companies to deceive their customers, and it is particularly heinous when their deception could negatively impact the public's health," state Sen. Adriano Espaillat said.
The public should be aware that there is no cure for the Zika virus, which is primarily spread by infected mosquitoes, according to the attorney general’s office, which added that it can also be spread by sexual or blood contact and may cause symptoms including mild fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.
As of July 29, there were 406 cases of Zika in New York City, according to the NYC Department of Health.