Hot Poppin' Culture News From New York City

Zika Virus Scammers Preying on Fearful, NY Attorney General Warns

This mosquito can transmit the Zika virus to humans, but authorities are warning citizens to beware of companies selling bogus repellents. (Photo: Getty)

This mosquito can transmit the Zika virus to humans, but authorities are warning citizens to beware of companies selling bogus repellents. (Photo: Getty)

Zika virus infections have been rising in the United States, causing scammers to prey on fearful citizens by selling a host of products that are ineffective against infected mosquitoes, New York Attorney General A.G. Schneiderman warned today.

The state’s top cop said he issued “cease and desist” orders to seven companies that have been busted for selling bogus preventive products.

The Zika virus is primarily spread by infected mosquitoes, although it can also be spread through sexual contact or blood contact.

As of July 15, some 346 Zika infections have been reported in New York City. Symptoms including mild fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) in most healthy people.

“But Zika poses a serious threat to women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, because it may cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect that affects brain development,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

Cases of Zika infection have been documented in Florida and the mosquitoes are expected to spread mainly through states with warm wet climates. In addition some 40 U.S. soldiers had contracted the virus overseas.

“We continue to remind women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to not travel to a Zika-affected area – that includes most of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a neighborhood in Miami, Florida,” she added.

Today’s action is the first to target scammers.

The companies were ordered to halt all advertising claiming their products are “Zika-protective” or “Zika-preventive.” At the moment, there is no known vaccine for the mosquito-borne illness.

“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,” he added.

The products cited in the orders included Wildheart Outdoors Natural Mosquito Repellent Bracelet; MosQUITo Repellent Bracelet Wristband Band; Neor Mosquito Repellent Bracelet and Kenza High Quality Zika Mosquito Repellent.

Also on the list were Smiley Patch Mobile Pro Gear ZIKA Shield Mosquito Repellent Bands; STAR Ultrasonic Pest Repeller and iGear iGuard 2.0 Ultrasonic Insect Pest Repellent.

Products that are effective against mosquitoes include the chemicals DEET and picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and a repellent called IR3535, according to Bassett.

None of the products targeted in the crackdown contained any of the EPA-registered insect repellents recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The crackdown also targeted makers of ultrasonic devices. They claim to repel mosquitoes by emitting a high-frequency buzz. But numerous scientific studies have found that ultrasonic devices do not repel mosquitoes and may even attract them, Bassett said.

Repellent bracelets with common botanical ingredients, such as vitamin B, oil of geranium, cedar, lemongrass, soy and citronella have “limited effectiveness” against mosquitoes, Bassett added.

There is no cure for the Zika virus, but vaccines are nearing clinical trials on humans.

President Obama expressed frustration today (Aug 4) over the Republican Congress’s failure to approve an emergency appropriation to pay for Zika research and containment efforts.

Subscribe To TheImproper's Email Newsletters, Free!