Remember in the summer of 2009, when there was an outbreak of swine flu and everyone went bananas? Well, sales of hand sanitizer spiked, with figures 50% higher at the peak than the year prior. Things got so insane that Purell manufacturer Gojo issued a statement pleading with its customers not to hoard the product, as it was creating shortages and their production couldn’t keep up.
Fast forward five years, and it was Ebola. Makers of PPE like DuPont were buried in backlogs as they struggled to keep up with demand for items like chemical suits, hoods and face masks. The anxiety here in the U.S. even hampered supply to the actually hard-hit areas like Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Well, it’s 2016 and there's a new epidemic to fear – the Zika virus. As the Olympics kick off this week in Rio – and the first Zika case has been reported on U.S. soil – fear of the disease is ramping up, which means certain industries will benefit.
According to the AP, Spectrum Brands Inc. has said retailers have seen sales double over last year's for its mosquito repellent brands, Cutter and Repel. It's also boosted production, and started mentioning Zika on its repellent cans.
In a first for a bugspray, Off! Brand became the official insect repellent supplier for an Olympic Games, and agreed to send 115,000 sprays, spritzers and towelettes to the Rio Olympics.
So people are scrambling to slap some DEET on their bodies, but the mosquitos aren’t the only thing out in full force. The CDC is warning that epidemic opportunists are also, believe it not, trying to separate you from your money.
Officials say to avoid ultrasound bug zappers, $20 insecticide-containing wrist and ankle bands such as "Mosquitno," and "Spotz," and Citronella-infused stickers that adhere to clothing and supposedly repel mosquitoes for three days.
Researchers do suggest that products containing 23.8 percent DEET, such as Off! Deep Woods, can protect against mosquito bites for 3 to 6 hours – and that's what most people are buying, whether they are near Zika-carrying mosquitoes or not. Luckily, Off! maker SC Johnson has ramped up to 24-hour, 7-day a week production to deal with the epidemic so hopefully those of us who really haven’t been impacted at all don’t take supply away from those who actually need it.