Zika Threat Leads to Demand in Repellent Apparel

The spread of the Zika virus has spurred a surge in sales of industry apparel with built-in insect repellent. In addition, one supplier has just unveiled a line of insect-repelling activewear in response to the concern.


The ElimiTick Longsleeve Shirt (TSTLD-P) from Gamehide (asi/46701) is made of wicking performance fabric and repels insects, including Zika-carrying mosquitoes, with built-in Insect Shield technology.

The Zika virus has been rapidly spreading across the Western Hemisphere since early 2015, when Brazil first notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an illness characterized by a skin rash in its northeastern states. Zika is now present in almost every country from the United States, through Central America and south to Argentina. So far, Florida’s Miami-Dade County is the only area with cases of Zika fever being passed via mosquito bite in the United States. All other U.S. cases are travel-associated, meaning patients traveled to countries with active Zika transmission, contracted it there and brought it back to the U.S.

Supplier Expert Brand (asi/53404) officially announced that it has partnered with startup Nobitech to offer a line of insect-repelling activewear. The collection includes T-shirts, pullovers, hoodies and pants treated with Nobitech’s Skintex technology, which contains Permethrin, a synthetic insecticide that repels ticks, ants, flies, fleas, chiggers, midges and mosquitoes, including those carrying the Zika virus.

“We are incredibly honored to provide our fashion-forward apparel to this imperative initiative,” said Sion Shaman, vice president of sales for Expert Brand, in a statement. “Our athletic-inspired garments are already equipped with permanent moisture-wicking, BodyFreshé antimicrobials and breathable properties, so this partnership is definitely a perfect match. From our water-resistant jackets to hoodies to performance tees and pants, you’ll see a lot of familiar Expert Brand pieces within this technologically-advanced Nobitech collection.”

Both OMNi Apparel Inc. (asi/99550) and Gamehide (asi/46701) offer apparel treated with Insect Shield, with uses a formulation also containing Permethrin. OMNi Apparel has been a licensee of Insect Shield International since 2008, and manufactures and distributes Insect Shield/Zorrel Dri-Balance Moisture Management Tees.

The Insect Shield process involves binding a proprietary Permethrin formula, a registered EPA product since 1977 that’s proven effective in repelling insects, to fabric fibers, resulting in an odorless insect protection that lasts the apparel’s lifetime, the equivalent of 70 launderings.

“We’ve seen a spike in demand for the Insect Shield Repellent Apparel,” vice president Sean Mahoney told Counselor. “Through six months this year, sales were 145% in excess of what we had forecasted for the 12-month period.” The apparel is registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for effective repellency against mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.

Gamehide offers the treated apparel in its ElimiTick line, including shirts, pants, hoodies and socks. “Since offering ElimiTick items to licensed promotional products distributors, the demand has been steadily growing,” said Chris Cass, corporate sales and marketing assistant, in an interview with Counselor. “In light of the recent Zika outbreaks and the overall negative impact insects can have, it has been important to educate distributors on the importance of our ElimiTick collection clothing and how it can benefit their customers.”

According to Mahoney, OMNi Apparel’s offerings have been in high demand at gardens and nurseries, landscaping and construction companies, with pool maintenance teams and at jobs around waterways and rivers. Gamehide has also served the agricultural, survey and electrical company industries, as well as state agencies. Company risk managers have shown interest in the apparel as a way to reduce the risk of disease contracted during work, said Mahoney, while the kids’ apparel in OMNi Apparel’s line has been popular with summer camps this year.

“We’re also contacted by people who need apparel for mission trips to developing countries,” said Mahoney. “They need protection from Zika if they’re going to Brazil, for example, but also Dengue fever in the Hawaiian Islands, West Nile in North Dakota and Lyme disease in Appalachia.”

As the Zika threat continues to grow, with much uncertainty ahead, OMNi Apparel expects its customer base to widen. “We’re seeing a growing demand within our retail channel of distribution and manufacturing in not only the U.S., but also Europe and Asia,” Mahoney said. “We’ll see a slight fall-off during the winter months, but we’re expecting a robust spring and summer next year.”

The Zika virus creates Zika fever in humans, which produces symptoms such as a skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis that are usually not life-threatening. However, if contracted by a pregnant mother, the virus can infect her unborn fetus, causing birth defects and severe brain anomalies, most notably microcephaly. The virus has also appeared in several European countries, as well as Australia.