Avoiding Zika – and Defective Products – This Summer
All Floridians know that summer means mosquitos! These pesky insects have been biting and bothering people for years, but now with the spread of the Zika virus into North America and even parts of Florida, concerns about mosquito prevention are growing.
Zika is a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. The virus can also spread through sexual intercourse, or can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Though generally not fatal, Zika can cause significant birth defects in babies, including microcephaly and Guillian-Barre’s Syndrome. In non-pregnant individuals, Zika often results in flu-like symptoms. Zika made it to Florida last summer, including a confirmed case in Pinellas County, and as temperatures rise and mosquitos emerge, we will likely see more cases.
One company, Viatek Consumer Products Group, tried to take advantage of the Zika fear. They sold a product called a “mosquito shield band,” which allegedly creates a 5-foot mosquito free zone around the person wearing the band. The band contains mint oil, which is supposed to keep the mosquitos away. However, the bands don’t actually do anything to prevent mosquito bites, and now the company has been ordered to pay a $300,000 fine for misleading advertising.
Misleading or Defective Products
When a product relies on misleading advertising, it can be dangerous for the consumer. For example, imagine a pregnant woman read their advertisements and bought the band, believing it would protect her and her fetus from mosquito bites and Zika. Because of this, she didn’t take any other precautions, like avoiding standing water or wearing insect repellent. If she contracted Zika and her baby was born with a defect, the misleading advertising could be potentially liable. Or imagine if a product claimed to help some other health problem, like heart attacks or diabetes. If it falsely led people to believe it was helping them, it could lead to serious damage or even death.
Other times, products should work, but simply don’t, usually because of a manufacturing error. In this case, it’s an issue with a defective product, not false advertising. However, this is equally dangerous for the consumer. Consumers expect their products to be safe and reliable. They should be warned or refunded if the product does not safely meet those expectations.
In the meantime, there are plenty of reliable ways to prevent Zika:
- Wear insect repellent
- Wear long sleeves and pants, when possible
- Avoid standing water, including buckets, puddles, and any large bodies of water, like lakes
- Use protection during sexual intercourse, particularly if your partner has recently traveled to an area with Zika
- Avoid traveling to areas with Zika, particularly if you are pregnant
It would be nice if a simple armband could create a mosquito-free zone by for now, it looks like Floridians will have to take mosquito prevention in their own hands.
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