Battling Zika Virus: Comparing Anti-Mosquito Products

The spread of the Zika virus has consumers looking for protection.

ByABC News
May 26, 2016, 11:08 AM

— -- The spread of the Zika virus, combined with the start of mosquito season, has consumers looking for ways to protect themselves against the mosquito-borne illness, which has been associated with devastating birth defects.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday it settled for $300,000 with the marketer of Viatek's Mosquito Shield Bands over the claim the product created a 5-foot protective “vapor barrier” around the wearer.

The FTC said the company sold the band without reliable scientific evidence to back its claims. The company said it never claimed to protect against all mosquitoes, also denying that it took "advantage of consumer concerns for the Zika virus."

"To date, Viatek stands behind the empirical scientific evidence that resulted from multiple tests performed as to the efficacy of their mosquito bands. The tests were conducted by a leading American university and a distinguished professor of entomology, who provided competent and reliable evidence for the claims," the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in a report released this morning, Consumer Reports said it tested several brands of mosquito-repellent clothing and found that while the shirts did help to protect against mosquitoes, none offered full protection.

The report said none of the shirts tested was as effective as an ordinary shirt that was sprayed with DEET, adding that the shirts’ manufacturers stressed the importance of wearing the clothing as well as a repellent.

Consumer Reports tried three permethrin-treated shirts from L.L. Bean and ExOfficio. Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide that is used to treat mosquitoes, head lice, bed bugs and other insects.

The shirts tested were L.L. Bean’s permethrin-treated Crew shirt ($80), Bugsaway Breez’r by ExOfficio ($85) and Talisman by ExOfficio ($85). According to the report, the shirts were treated with 0.52 percent permethrin, the industry standard. It also said manufacturers claim the permethrin would last for 70 washes.

Consumer Reports said it tested new shirts and shirts that had been washed 25 times. As controls, it also tested untreated shirts made of similarly thick materials, as well as one untreated shirt that was sprayed with Ben’s 30 percent DEET Tick and Wilderness formula, Consumer Reports’ top-rated DEET product.

The DEET-sprayed shirts prevented all mosquitoes from landing, and therefore prevented all bites, the report said.

Insect Shield, the technology used on ExOfficio BugsAway clothing, said in a statement to ABC News that its technology provided “an inexpensive and automatic way to protect from Zika virus.”

In a statement to ABC News, L.L. Bean said: “While contact repellents like permethrin, which is in our No Fly Zone apparel and spatial repellents like Deet represent vastly different technologies, our No Fly Zone garments give folks yet another effective choice for battling biting insects and insect-borne diseases."

There are several efforts underway to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes, including the creation of a genetically modified mosquito that could help reduce the mosquito population without the need for pesticides.

The head of a British biotech company that has developed a genetically modified mosquito in an effort to lower the population of the insects that spread the Zika virus called for federal regulators to expedite a decision on conducting a test of these mosquitoes in Florida.

Hadyn Parry, the CEO of Oxitec, spoke at a congressional hearing Wednesday about his company's mosquitoes, which are genetically modified in an effort to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the species primarily responsible for the spread of the Zika virus.

The FDA has given an initial "Finding of No Significant Impact" regarding the proposed test in the Florida Keys.

ABC News' Gillian Mohney contributed to this report.

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