Press Release

Zika Protective Apparel for Expectant Mothers

  • November 03, 2016
  • Dr. Amparo Berrios helps a patient try on Maternova protective apparel at the Americares Family Clinic in Santiago de Maria, El Salvador. Photo by Marc Birnbach/Americares

Stamford, Conn. – Nov. 3, 2016 – Expectant mothers in El Salvador now have access to new, protective apparel that defends against mosquitos that carry the Zika virus. Americares recently began distributing shirts crafted from bio-repellent-treated textile to patients of the Americares Family Clinic in Santiago de Maria, El Salvador.

Maternova is a social enterprise dedicated to developing, selling and distributing innovations that improve maternal and child health globally. The company is creating stylish and culturally appropriate Zika-protection clothing designed especially for pregnant women who face the greatest risk from the mosquito-borne virus. Maternova is partnering with Americares to distribute the first garment in the collection to pregnant women in El Salvador. The innovative apparel line for women and adolescent girls will also include tops, dresses, pants and scarves, including maternity styles. Zika infections have been linked to microcephaly, a condition that affects brain development in newborns.

“Current efforts to combat the Zika virus in vulnerable communities in Latin America focus on vector control and education, but no serious attention has been given to culturally appropriate, protective daytime apparel for women in high-risk communities,” said Meg Wirth, Maternova CEO and founder. “The line promotes stylish apparel that women of reproductive age will want to wear.”

The new Zika-protective apparel uses patent-protected nanotechnology to bind repellent to the textile. Unlike similar garments on the market, the line is odorless and designed specifically for pregnant women, Wirth said. The repellent is effective for up to 50 washings.

Americares is distributing the shirts in the Zika protection kits it gives to expectant mothers along with insect repellent, bed nets, condoms and education materials. The clinic is also hosting educational seminars focused on the Zika virus, deploying community health workers to educate families on how to reduce their risk and supporting community-based vector-control efforts, including fumigation. The family clinic in Santiago de Maria about two hours from San Salvador provides high-quality subsidized health care services to more than 60,000 low-income patients in eastern El Salvador.

“The apparel is a great addition to our Zika protection kits,” said Americares Senior Vice President of Global Programs Dr. E. Anne Peterson. “It is an innovative and practical way to extend another layer of protection to prenatal patients most at risk.”

Patients started receiving the protective shirts last week during prenatal appointments. Maternova, based in Rhode Island, plans to expand distribution in the next six months to the United States, Colombia and Brazil with an equity crowdfunding campaign (https://www.republic.co/maternova ). Brazilian-born, Miami-based designer Alessandra Gold is partnering with Maternova on the apparel designs. Gold has emerged as a leading stylist and designer globally, with her work appearing in VogueGlamour, Sports Illustrated and New York Fashion Week.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have such a design maverick like Alessandra partner with us,” said Allyson Cote, Maternova CoFounder. “Alessandra is from Brazil, living in Miami, so the Zika threat is dear to her heart, and she immediately stepped in to take the creative lead. She is passionate and committed to the cause.”

Americares patients will be asked for detailed input on the clothing designs to ensure the line is culturally appropriate, comfortable and well received.

About Maternova

Maternova Inc is an award-winning women’s health care solutions company accelerating access to innovative technologies around the globe.  The company already distributes more than 40 technologies that help improve the lives of women and children in emerging and developing markets as well as the U.S. and Europe. The first phase of the Zika apparel project is funded by a competitive grant through the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health, awarded by Grand Challenges Canada.