Rentokil reveals how it tackled threat of Zika at Rio Olympics

Rentokil has spoken for the first time about its involvement in keeping last year’s Rio Olympics free of the Zika virus. 

The company was awarded the contract to deliver pest control for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to keep athletes and spectators safe amid widespread fear about the risks of contracting the virus. 

Now, Rentokil has revealed the details of its involvement after it won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade last week, recognising its global work. 

The company used a number of new pest control techniques to rid the Olympic sites of mosquitoes, including a new non-chemical treatment of ultrasonic pulses to kill mosquito larvae in open water, reducing the larvae population by over 90pc.

Zika, which is transmitted to people primarily through a bite from an infected mosquito, generally results in a mild infection and is not harmful. However, scientists believe it was behind an unprecedented rise in the number of children being born last year with unusually small heads – microcephaly – in Zika infected areas.

Rentokil also used a specialised mosquito programme for the first time at a major event, which places traps in key sites to act as an early warning system of the presence of mosquitoes. Alongside that, it used more traditional methods such as spraying insecticide. 

The company began work on the contract in May 2016 with a team of 20 technicians, providing preventative pest control to the athletes’ village, three media villages, arenas and stadiums. 

The World Health Organisation said after the games that there had been no confirmed cases of Zika virus among people who attended. 

Rentokil’s pest control arm has been particularly strong in recent year, increasing its revenues by 73pc between 2010 and 2015. It has expanded its pest control operations significantly in North America, Latin and Central America, the Middle East, Asia and Pacific over the past three years. 

Last week, the company reported a 23pc rise in revenues in the first quarter of 2017, partly because of improving exchange rates.