For consumers, avoiding Zika is getting more expensive

Those Zika-bearing mosquitos aren't only a serious health menace -- they're also costing people money.

The average price for bug spray purchased online has jumped to $12.66, up 23 percent over the last year, according to data analytics firm 1010data. Market researcher IRI, which tracks brick-and-mortar stores, also reported price increases for bug sprays sold under the Off, Raid, Cutter and Repel brands, though prices vary and hikes weren't across the board.

For instance, around the U.S. the price of Off Deep Woods brand spray averaged $6.52 per unit, up 33 cents from the previous year, while Raid Outdoor rose 39 cents to $6.22. Off and Raid are made by S.C. Johnson, the largest maker of insecticide.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin-based company said it hasn't raised prices. Spectrum, which makes Cutter and Repel, has kept prices stable for the past few years, according to a spokesman.

Zika may be a health scourge, but they're a boon for makers of bug spray. Americans have spent nearly $62 million on insect repellent this year, up 12 percent from a year ago, according to IRI. Online sales surged 324 percent in the three months ended in April, 1010data reports. The numbers may be skewed by the fact that online spending is increasing at a much faster rate than traditional shopping.

Sales of S.C. Johnson's insecticides have risen 35 percent this year, to $22.2 million, while Spectrum Brands posted revenue of $16 million, up 35 percent over a year ago, according to IRI. S.C. Johnson, which is closely held, declined to comment on IRI's figures. It has started its annual marketing campaign for insecticides about two months earlier than usual.

Demand for insecticide has been especially strong in Latin America and the Caribbean, which are at the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, along with warm weather U.S. states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 544 cases reported in the continental U.S. from people who had traveled to affected areas. Mosquitoes with the virus have reached Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. People infected with the virus often don't show symptoms.

"We are not struggling to meet the demand -- partly because we are the largest manufacturer of repellents and insecticides in the world -- but are still treating this with a sense of urgency and are operating at full capacity," said Jeff R. McCollum, a spokesman for S.C. Johnson, by email. "We are working to ensure that product will be available if there is a surge in demand."

S.C. Johnson has been running its plants in the Americas that make insecticide 24 hours a day, seven days a week since February. As of last week, the company had produced 1.2 million more cans of Off than it did during the same time last year. The Wisconsin-based company has donated $15 million to help people affected by the disease.

Pharmacy operators such as Walgreens (WBA) and CVS (CVS) are helping boost insecticide sales. At its 120 stores in Puerto Rico, Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, has cut the price on products that the CDC says can fight Zika. Those include insect repellent with DEET; condoms, which can prevent sexual transmission of the disease; and thermometers to monitor for fever.

CVS plans to add signage to its 4,000 stores and distribute pamphlets with information on how to combat the disease, according to Advertising Age. A spokesperson for the company couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.