MIAMI (AP) — The "enormous demand" created by the international Zika epidemic for traps used to monitor mosquitoes that carry the virus caught their German manufacturer off-guard, two company officials said Friday.
According to Biogents' only U.S. distributor, a backlog affects 1,950 traps ordered by governments and private businesses in Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and a few other states.
"Yes, unfortunately we have indeed a problem with the enormous demand of the traps due to the Zika outbreak," Biogents board member Martin Geier confirmed in an email Friday to The Associated Press. "We are a small/medium enterprise and had to adapt our production to the market needs."
The small company in Regensburg, Germany, typically fills a few thousand orders for these BG-Sentinel traps each year. Now it has had to ramp up production, Geier and board member Andreas Rose said in emails.
"Our stocks were sold out quicker than expected," Rose said.
An incoming shipment should fill orders for about 1,500 of the traps by the week of June 6, according to BioQuip Products Inc., the Los Angeles-based distributor.
The black, cylindrical traps, slightly larger than ice buckets, draw Aedes aegypti and Asian tiger mosquitoes into bags by emitting a scent that mimics the odor of humans.
"The BG Sentinel trap currently is the best trap for attracting the Aedes mosquitoes. There are other traps on the market, but if you're trying to do surveillance for Aedes, this one is specifically designed to attract them," said Susan Weinstein, Arkansas' public health veterinarian.
Nearly 600 travel-related Zika cases have been reported nationwide. Most people only suffer a mild and brief illness, but the virus can cause severe birth defects and neurological problems in some adults, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the National Press Club on Thursday that his agency is trying to fast-track innovations to fight Zika, such as new traps that kill female mosquitoes.
"We've developed new traps that are effective and actually can knock down the spread of diseases spread, like Zika, by half, very simply, at a low cost," Frieden said.
Health officials have tracked 160 travel-related Zika cases in Florida, including 37 involving pregnant women. More than half of Florida's order for more than 300 of the BG-Sentinel traps is delayed, meaning a longer wait for areas of the state that lack this surveillance capacity.
But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Thursday he isn't overly concerned by the backlog, even as other states order more of the traps. Arkansas health officials plan to order more after requesting 20 in December. In Texas, health officials said 50 are on order and they'll likely request more.
In Florida, mosquitoes caught in the traps are sent to a state lab, newly equipped to screen for Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Florida's broad Zika response efforts also include a hotline, strident calls from the governor to prepare for the virus as though it were an incoming hurricane, media campaigns to "drain and cover" standing water and more local enforcement of codes requiring property owners to remove containers where mosquitoes might breed.
Associated Press writers Mike Schneider in Orlando contributed to this report.