The Maker Of 'Off' Mosquito Repellant Is Preparing To Take On Zika

The chief executive of SC Johnson says his company wants to fight the virus at its source.

12/02/2016 5:23 AM AEDT | Updated 19/02/2016 6:49 AM AEDT
Jose Wesley, who was born with microcephaly and screams uncontrollably for long stretches, is attended to in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Jan. 30, 2016. The Zika virus is drawing worldwide attention to a devastating birth defect that until now has gotten little public notice.

SC Johnson is gearing up to whack a lot more mosquitoes.

The home chemicals giant, which makes the insect repellent Off and the insecticide Raid, announced on Tuesday that it will donate 54,000 units of Off to the County of Hawaii Civil Defense Agency to help protect against mosquitoes that may carry dengue fever. Since an outbreak of the disease began last fall, more than 250 cases have been reported.

But as Zika virus -- the mosquito-borne tropical disease linked to debilitating birth defects -- is spreading at an alarming rate from Brazil up to Mexico, the company told The Huffington Post that it is considering increasing production of its insect repellents to help deal with the crisis.

“We are absolutely going full bore ahead to help in any way we can,” Fisk Johnson, the chairman and chief executive of the family-owned company, said Wednesday in a rare interview. “The Hawaii donation is the tip of the iceberg of what we are going to be donating to help people around the world, especially those who cannot afford the tools that they need to protect themselves from Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

The Racine, Wisconsin-based company said it has approached the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Committee of the Red Cross about donations to fight Zika. It has yet to announce any contributions.

"The whole Zika thing is so tragic," Johnson said. "I really feel for what’s happening around the world."

For now, executives at SC Johnson are meeting daily to discuss new information about the fast-moving Zika outbreak. So far, 35 cases of Zika have been reported in the United States, all of which were contracted while traveling abroad, according to the CDC. In Puerto Rico, 10 cases have been reported, only one of them associated with travel. One other case was reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The patient, like the nine others in Puerto Rico, was infected locally.

Still, Johnson said his company wants to take the fight to Zika’s source.

“This is beyond the United States,” Johnson said. “We’re donating in South America, and as this thing appears elsewhere, we’re going to be wherever it is in the world and we’ll be helping out."

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