The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found evidence that more than 1,000 pregnant women in the United States may have been infected with Zika virus this year.
A Rhode Island company has now developed clothing aimed at protecting pregnant women against Zika. The apparel is being distributed at a clinic in El Salvador by Americares, a Connecticut-based non-profit.
Allyson Cote is co-founder of Providence-based Maternova, which creates and sells obstetric and newborn medical innovations to hospitals, governments, and charities in 40 countries around the world.
She said the idea was to find a fabric that not only could be treated with an insect repellant, but that women in warm, high-risk climates would actually want to wear.
"We're looking to minimize the exposed skin and in doing that, we had to be careful and very thoughtful in the fabric choice," said Cote. "Really heavy fabric is not something a lot of people would want to wear because of heat or humidity."
Cote said they found the fabric they were looking for in Portugal. It's able to embed bug repellent, is odorless, and can withstand many washings.
Maternova created tops, dresses, pants and scarves. "They are being distributed to women in El Salvador at the clinic run by Americares, and so far the feedback has been extremely positive," said Cote.
Though the apparel was created to help defend against Zika infections, which are linked to severe birth defects in newborns, Cote said the fabric offers additional benefits. "It actually protects for up to 40 other vector borne illnesses, one of which is Lyme disease," Cote said.
Maternova plans to expand distribution of the clothing to the US, Colombia, and Brazil in the coming months.