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US citizens take extra precautions over swine flu
April 29, 2009 / 10:24 PM / 9 years ago

US citizens take extra precautions over swine flu

* Demand for hand sanitizers and face masks jumps

* Americans vigilant but not panicking over flu alert (Adds rush for face masks at Sacramento pharmacy)

By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA, April 29 (Reuters) - Demand for hand-washing products and face masks soared in the United States on Wednesday as many people stepped up health precautions against swine flu after the first death in the country from the virus.

Drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) reported an "extraordinary spike" in national demand for hand sanitizers, wipes and soap and demand was also up for Roche Holding AG’s ROG.VX flu drug Tamiflu, said spokeswoman Ashley Flower.

Drugstore chain Walgreens WAG.N reported increased demand for products that could help keep flu at bay and said it was stocking all products recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 22-month-old boy died in Texas of swine flu. U.S. officials said he was on a family visit from Mexico, where up to 159 flu fatalities have been recorded.

There are 91 confirmed cases in 10 U.S. states from New York to California, according to the CDC, which said the number was likely to rise.

In the California capital Sacramento, some residents rushed to buy surgical masks at drugstores, to wear over their mouths as a protection against the virus.

"I had four people in here this morning as soon as we opened up," said Tom Nelson, who sold four boxes containing 20 masks each at his busy Midtown store, Pucci’s Leader Pharmacy.

Since Monday, 20 to 30 people had called or come in to buy masks and to see if Tamiflu was in stock."We order them (masks) every day, and now the suppliers are out. If we get a run on them, we’ll be out like everyone else," Nelson said.

In other signs of concern over the virus, two schools closed in California on Wednesday and at least one in Chicago because of suspected cases of the virus and high levels of absenteeism among students.

Many Americans were taking precautions at home.

Virginia Endecott of Katy, Texas described her family’s response as "heightened vigilance" and said she was wiping household appliances, door handles and other surfaces at least twice a day as well as using hand wipes.

"We’re probably a little more worried than we otherwise would be," she said.


Many people returning on Wednesday from Mexico to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport wore face masks to protect against the possible spread of the virus and some said they had cut short their trips.

Several said they were surprised not to have been subjected to additional screening and questions by U.S. Customs.

"Customs was normal here (in the United States). In Mexico they made us fill out a form and we had to write if we had a headache, stomach ache, fever or coughing," said Jorge Ortega, 21, who flew in from the Mexican city of Chihuahua.

Angel Aguirre, 29, a U.S. citizen who works in the leather upholstery industry, wore a face mask and said that, as an extra precaution, he had also wrapped his clothes in plastic and planned to wash them as soon as he got home.

"I was there about three days. It should have been two weeks," said Aguirre.

Several Americans said they were increasingly vigilant but not panicking.

"I figure it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to spread, right?" said Kathy Ivcich, 53, a real estate agent in Chicago. (Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas, Carey Gillam and Andrew Stern in Chicago and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles) (Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman)

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