Flu fears pump up hand cleaner sales

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff
Posted May 10, 2009, at 7:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Public health experts advise Americans to stock up on alcohol-based hand cleaner to help fight the H1N1 swine flu virus when good old soap-and-water isn’t available. Mainers must be getting the message: With one exception, a brief survey on Sunday of some Bangor stores found paltry supplies of the stuff.

At Wal-Mart, there were three big bottles of Germ-X and a handful of smaller containers of Purell on the shelf.

“That’s it, I’m afraid,” a clerk said. “We were lucky to get that.”

The only hand sanitizer supplies at Target were a few 2-ounce travel containers of the store brand.

Rite Aid on Union Street and Shaw’s on Main Street also had only travel-size bottles, and not many of them.

The only exception was Miller Drug, where a “flu protection center” was set up near the pharmacy window. It was comfortingly stocked with paper face masks, disposable gloves, tissues, spray disinfectant and several sparkling rows of Purell and Dial hand cleaners in substantial 12-ounce bottles and other sizes.

Pharmacy technician Joshua Wilson said demand has been brisk for the protective supplies, especially hand cleaner, since the swine flu virus made its way into Maine last week.

“When one of these flu things comes out, customers get a little demanding,” he said. “We had to limit purchases of face masks to two boxes per customer.”

Wilson said people should understand that most paper face masks serve only to keep the germs of an already-infected person from spraying into the air during a sneeze or cough, and that for healthy people, wearing a face mask offers little protection against picking up the virus.

“It’s not like putting on a hazmat suit,” he said.

Wilson said Miller Drug has its “regular supply” of alcohol-based hand cleaners. It is displayed in a couple of spots around the store, and there is more out back.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/05/10/news/bangor/flu-fears-pump-up-hand-cleaner-sales/ printed on April 24, 2014