According to the CDC, the Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which experts say is a daytime pest. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild, according to experts, lasting for several days to a week. Usually, people don’t get sick enough to warrant a trip to a doctor or hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. In fact, many might not realize they have been infected at all.
Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. However, there are blood-borne transmission issues that have serious implications for pregnant women. Zika has been associated with microcephaly, a serious and often deadly neurological disorder in which babies are born with abnormally small heads—news that has occupied headlines coming from Latin American countries like Brazil in recent weeks.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil, and on Feb. 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
For those traveling to countries where Zika or other mosquito-spread viruses (like dengue and chikungunya) are prevalent, CDC suggests avoiding mosquito bites by wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying in places that have air conditioning, windows and door screens, sleeping under a mosquito bed net, and using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. The agency also suggests treating clothing and gear with permethrin.
Ingredients in topical sprays that are proven effective include DEET and picaridin, and there are formulations featuring oil of lemon eucalyptus, or PMD too.
Market leader SC Johnson has donated considerable resources to battle Zika. The company pledged to donate at least $15 million during the next year to provide products to help needy families combat the mosquitoes that may carry the disease. SCJ will partner with international NGOs and health foundations to provide personal insect repellents, spatial repellents and household insecticides.
The company will also provide cash contributions to cover logistics, distribution and educational materials. Numerous countries are experiencing outbreaks of Zika and dengue fever, and both diseases continue to spread.
“The people who work at SCJ and I feel a strong commitment to helping ensure pest control products are provided to help protect needy families from the mosquitoes that may carry these diseases,” SC Johnson chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson said in a statement. “Since the Zika outbreak began in Brazil and has spread to other countries, we have ramped up our global production to help ensure an adequate supply of our products is available in stores, and more importantly, for a donation such as this. We are proud that this donation will help those who are especially vulnerable to the dangers of mosquito-borne diseases.”
In early March, as part of its commitment, SC Johnson announced a donation of more than 60,000 cans and bottles of Off! personal insect repellent to the CDC Foundation, in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The repellent will be part of Zika prevention kits distributed by the CDC and specifically targeted to help pregnant women in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. That same week, SC Johnson forged another partnership with the Rio de Janeiro-based Associacao Saude Criança (or Children’s Health Association), which included a donation of 25,000 units of Off! personal repellent to be distributed to needy families in Rio and southern Brazil.
RB has offered up resources too. The firm’s $1 million Zika Relief Package includes cash and in kind product donations that will be made available to health authorities and international NGOs battling the outbreak. Specifically, donations will include personal insect repellents and insecticides via RB’s SBP, Mortein and Repelex brands, as well as one million Durex condoms (a weapon against transmission via intercourse).
Tracking the Virus
As of March 9, CDC reported 173 locally acquired cases of Zika disease in US territories (America Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands). All but 14 of those cases were in Puerto Rico. There have been travel-associated cases reported stateside. As of March 9, there were 193 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported in the US.
The disease will most likely impact the travel category. In a February poll of 3,312 Americans conducted by Fluent, LLC, 44% said they would avoid planning or cancel (43%) their trips to areas affected by the Zika virus.
But the Zika issue is coming closer to home too. Experts say Florida, Texas and other Southern US states are areas where Aedes mosquitoes are most prevalent.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is urging the public to take precautions to curb problems during the warmer months when biting mosquito populations tend to increase. NPMA suggests homeowners eliminate areas of standing water around the property, screen all windows and doors and patch even the smallest tear.
Home abatement companies have become more vocal too. Florida-based SWAT Mosquito Systems installs custom-built misting sprays that are located and concealed around the perimeter of the home and can be operated with the push of button or smart phone app. Pyrethrum is misted three or four times per day. The spray directly affects the nervous system of biting insects, which kills rather than just repelling, “further protecting against the Zika Virus,” the firm said.
Another company, Mosquito Squad, recently announced plans to hire as many as 500 additional technicians. The Virginia-based company, which has 200 franchise locations nationwide, offers its own proprietary EPA-registered barrier treatment that address mosquito breeding spots.
According to a recently published Mosquito Control: U.S. Market Analysis and Opportunities report by market analysis firm Kline, consumption of insecticides by professional mosquito control districts, which exhibits slower growth of 1.2% in 2015 over 2012, is forecast to spike in 2016 due to newly developing public awareness of mosquito-borne diseases, fueled by the threat that the Zika virus could spread to the US.
Larvicides, insecticide products that are applied to control mosquito larvae in their aquatic breeding sites, showed the highest growth at approximately 3% a year since 2012, according to Kline. The strongest growth stems from products demonstrating a favorable environmental profile, such as those based on Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, Bacillus sphaericus and spinosad.
A slight decrease in the use of adulticides, which are insecticides applied to control adult mosquitoes by spraying the flying form of the pest, was found in the reporting period. The incidence of the West Nile Virus remained in the low to moderate range, with 2,060 human cases reported to the CDC in 2015, notes Kline’s report.
According to Dennis Fugate, industry manager at Kline’s agrochemicals/specialty pesticides practice, the increased awareness on the part of the public about the Zika virus will put added pressure on mosquito control professionals to do everything possible to control mosquito vectors in their districts. At the very least, strong growth in surveillance and larviciding will result in the coming season, especially in areas where Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (a potential vector) are present.
In addition to the newly published control study, Kline says a survey of mosquito control professionals in the US regarding their up-to-the-minute operational responses to the potential threat of Zika will be published sometime this spring.
For personal protection, repellent sprays are the best defense. In February, Consumer Reports made its test results and ratings of mosquito repellents available to the public for free. According to the group, some repellents worked much better than others at protecting against the type of mosquitoes that transmit Zika.
According to CR, the most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picaridin, Natrapel 8 Hour and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which kept mosquitoes from biting for approximately eight hours. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, with 30% lemon eucalyptus, stopped bites for seven hours, according to CR’s research.
The publication suggested that consumers should skip products made with natural plant oils, noting that none lasted for more than one hour against Aedes mosquitoes, and some failed almost immediately.
With Zika concerns mounting, market leader SC Johnson, maker of Off!, Raid, Autan and Baygon, has ramped up production.
The company said it has seen an increased demand for products from both retail customers and consumers as a result of the growing concerns about the Zika virus.
For example, this mosquito season, SCJ operations in Argentina and Brazil are reporting a 400-600% increase in production over the normal levels last year. And compared to last year, SCJ said it is already reporting significantly higher orders from customers in the southern states in the US, which the firm expects to soon be the case nationally.
“To meet product demand during such a critical period, we’ve ramped up production throughout the Americas and are pursuing easier flow of our products across markets. Our plants are working around the clock to meet customer and consumer demand—some with three 8-hour shifts, working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” an SCJ spokesperson told Happi.
Further, SC Johnson said it is responding to this crisis by using its more than “50 years of expertise in fighting mosquitoes to help educate the public. We are providing information, product and support on how to protect against mosquitoes via our website at scjohnson.com/mosquitoes. We will be regularly updating this site with information about mosquitoes including fact sheet, tips, videos and links to other information sources to help them protect themselves, their families and their homes against mosquitoes.”
That wealth of knowledge comes from SCJ’s extensive R&D activities that take place at the company’s entomology research center in Racine.
Sales of outdoor insect/rodent control products at US multi-outlets rose 11.21% to $516.1 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, 2016, according to data compiled by IRI. The leading players include SC Johnson and Spectrum Brands, Inc.'s pet, home and garden division, which includes United Industries and is home to a number of insect-related brands such as Repel, Spectacide, Cutter and Black Flag. The leading SKUs include products sold under the Off! and Raid banners, private label, Tiki and Cutter.
While not as dynamic as anti-aging skin care or as fashion-forward as color cosmetics, this personal care category will be one to watch as the weather warms up, Americans head outdoors and mosquito season begins.
• Located in Racine, the SC Johnson Entomology Research Center (ERC) is the world’s largest private, urban entomology research center. It was established in 1957 at SC Johnson’s corporate headquarters and in 1960 was moved to its current 30-acre complex.
According to SCJ, ERC houses approximately 20 species of insects, including six species of mosquitoes, including the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (species that have the ability to transmit the Zika virus, dengue fever virus and chikungunya) as well as three species of cockroaches, two species of ants, silverfish, firebrats, clothes moths, stored product pests and the common house fly. In addition, the ERC manages an active field-collecting program to secure and house seasonal insects as needed.
The ERC is divided into two major functional areas—product evaluation and development (which where the researchers develop and support global insecticides such as Raid, Baygon and All Out, and repellents such as like OFF! and Autan) and applied entomology research, where researchers study insect behavior and new technologies that eventually may lead to the development of new control strategies and novel delivery devices.
Both areas are supported by a modern insect-rearing facility known as the insectary, which is considered the heart of the ERC.
SC Johnson’s insect research has expanded beyond Racine; in 2013, the company expanded its research operations globally, opening the first of its kind, 300-square-meter research facility in China.
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of the April issue's print feature.