Defending against the flu

April 30, 2009 3:59:40 PM PDT
Local demand for sanitizing products is surging.

You could call it a Purell panic. Drug stores in Center City Philadelphia are sold out of the popular hand sanitizer as demand hits an all-time high.

It has been a futile hunt all over the city. At one CVS store in Center City, the Purell has been flying off the shelf as soon as it's restocked. Deborah Marshall of West Philadelphia came away empty-handed.

"I'm surprised," she said. "I really am. I had no idea, I just figured since I was out I would just get a big bottle to put at the front door. I found nothing."

Janet Mattia of South Philadelphia said, "I'm not surprised. People panic and they buy three dozen of them."

They sold out at a nearby Walgreens. So they stocked the shelves with the store brand only until a new shipment arrives tonight. They have also sold out of face masks here.

"This is the only thing we have right now," a store employee told a customer, holding up a personal sanitizing kit. "All of our stores are out of masks."

The demand for all things sanitary has also lead to a boom for a small family-owned business in Folcroft, PA. The Bullen Companies make a commercial sanitizer that's been approved for use on exotic viruses like the avian flu. Its products were used to clean an infected school in New York, and demand is coming in from all over the country.

"An ordinary household disinfectant might only kill certain germs," said company president Scott Jarden, "where a hospital-grade disinfectant is approved by the EPA to kill more difficult germs like the avian flu and things like that."

Schools, hospitals and governments are all keeping the production line humming here. But individuals looking for personal protection are left scouring the drug store shelves and hoarding what they have.

"I give it out to others in small bottles," said Debbie Dunn of South Philadelphia. Dunn said if her friends can't find any at the store, she might consider helping them out.

The stores all have new supplies on order. But until then, good old soap and water will have to do.


FAQs about swine flu
Additional swine flu resources
Transcript of's swine flu chat with local experts


CDC Swine Flu site
World Health Organization


Swine flu cases around the world

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