Three heartbreaking stories of families impacted by the Zika virus were highlighted this week in a Sunday New York Times article. Although last year’s Zika crisis is no longer making regular headlines, the World Health Organization now considers Zika a continuing health threat along the lines of Malaria or Yellow Fever. As the babies infected by Zika are getting older new challenges are arising for families, and new babies infected by the virus are still being born. Despite a vaccine in development, pregnant women in at risk areas have to live with the daily fear of exposing their unborn child to the virus. The founders of Maternova, a company that specializes in women’s health solutions, Meg Wirth and Allison Cote, realized that the world could not just sit around and wait for a vaccine to be developed. A process that, if successful, can sometimes still take years to get to the public. Women and babies are most directly impacted by the consequences of the virus, and with nothing on the market to help women to continue to live their daily lives, a viable everyday solution was needed.
“We realized with the increasing threat of Zika becoming an epidemic in South America and then entering the United States, that this was something that had direct dire consequences for pregnant women and their babies, and there wasn’t anything on the market that proved to be viable and be used everyday in order for these women to protect themselves.”
– Allyson Cote, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Maternova
The duo enlisted Alessandra Gold, a Brazilian-born, Miami-based award-winning designer to create a four piece capsule collection of mosquito repellent, yet fashionable, maternity clothing that women could wear every day. The idea was that the clothing would help to do during the day what mosquito netting does at night. Using a non-permethrin nano-technology patented in Europe the textile used in the garments has repellent embedded into it on a molecular level.
The NovaVeil collection features a dress, a cardigan with a hood, a scarf, and leggings, all designed to be comfortably worn in warm climates. Not only do the garments provide protection from the Zika virus but from other insect born illnesses such as Malaria, Dengue, and lyme disease. The goal was to appeal to and be able to reach women across the economic spectrum, so sales of NovaVeil garments in high end areas will help to subsidizes providing garments in lower income areas. It turns out that the cost per wear of the clothing, which remains effective through 50 wash cycles (and when tested was still 60% effective after 90 washes) will be less expensive than it would be to apply insect repellent every day. It is also better for the woman’s health, and for the environment.
“There is a massive amount of literature on bed nets and protecting women and families at nighttime from Malaria, but there was very little out there about protection during the daytime. In part that’s because this is a brand new technology.”
– Meg Wirth, Co-Founder of Maternova
Maternova partnered with Americares early on by adding a NovaVeil maternity top to anti-Zika mother kits they were already giving to their pregnant patients at a health clinic in El Salvador. The kits also contained condoms, bed nets, skin based repellent, and a water purification method. It is not surprising that a fast acting every-day solution in response to the Zika crisis that puts mothers and babies first would come from a social enterprise owned and run by women. The goal is to continue to offer the NovaVeil line at either no cost or low cost to distribution partners in Latin America in hopes of protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable women, while widening distribution so that pregnant women everywhere can feel safe from the threat of Zika in their everyday lives.
This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay for World Moms network.