Surgical Masks, Sanitizer and Bleach Fly off the Shelves as Swine Flu Fear Spreads

by Bryan Garner


At Abel Medical Supply in Ft. Pierce, Florida Laurie Lowe is used to fielding calls for wheel chairs, bed pans and braces, but this week all anyone seems to want are masks.

"They're already sold out," said Lowe, a retail manager at the Ft. Pierce store.

She says blue isolation masks are what people want.

Those are the kind doctors wear at hospitals.

They sell for about $7 for a pack of five.

Lowe says they've flown off the shelves ever since news of the swine flu broke.

"People are concerned it's [swine flu] going to come this way and I think it just makes people nervous, especially the elderly," she said.

The manufacturer of the masks, 3M Co. has boosted supplies of the product, but Lowe says her shop can't seem to find a wholesaler who has any left.

"Medline, they're a huge manufacturer out of Chicago, he told us if he had a warehouse full of them he could sell every one of them," she said.

According to a report on, demand is also building for personal hygiene products, anti-bacterial gels and wipes.

"They're important because this flu is spread by coughing or airborne or it's also spread through hand-to-mouth contact," said Joy Gourm, a pharmacist at Jackson Drugs in Ft. Pierce.

Bloomberg reports that Clorox is making more bleach to meet a growing demand for disinfectant.

On we even found a "Swine Flu First Aid Kit" for sale.

For $25 you can get masks, goggles, a disposable suit and wipes.

Should swine flu become a pandemic, Tamiflu pills will most certainly become a valuable commodity.

"Tamiflu can be used to decrease the effect of the symptoms of the swine flu and to help prevent the swine flu if you've been exposed," said Gourm.

You can't stock up on Tamiflu because it's a prescription-only drug.

Every member of your family would have to get a separate prescription, said Gourm.

It's also expensive: about $100 for a 10-dose supply, and at the moment, there's not much of it to go around.

"We probably have enough to treat about 20 people in Ft. Pierce.  That's all," said Gourm.

She added that if the swine flu spreads to South Florida she would expect the federal government to free up more supplies of the drug.

The government has a stockpile of 50 million doses of Tamiflu.

It has already released 12 million doses for use in areas affected by the disease.