Coronavirus concerns: Hand sanitizer shortage hits Philadelphia-area stores

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- National wholesalers and local stores are struggling to keep hand sanitizer on the shelves after a surge in purchases due to coronavirus concerns.

Philadelphia Health Department officials believe the number of reported cases in the region will change frequently as one person is being tested for possible coronavirus in the city.

Officials said the risk of infection for the average Philadelphian is very low and they continue to stress that people who have recently traveled to China are at the greatest risk.

Drug stores are currently having a tough time keeping hand sanitizer in stock.

"We sold out of the masks first and then the hand sanitizer went a little bit after. I guess people were nervous about the potential spread," said Steve Theodorou, pharmacy manager of Dake's Drug Store.

Theodorou said it's unclear when wholesalers will be able to send out the next shipment.

"Some of them don't even give an estimated release date. Some are saying the end of this month," Theodorou said.

The CDC recommends using alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water aren't available.

There are also ways to make your own sanitizer by using rubbing alcohol, but experts warn to be sure the ingredients are measured correctly to protect your skin.

"Most rubbing alcohol is like 70 percent isopropyl and I think you'll get essentially the same effect as far as killing off viruses and bacteria," Theodorou said.

Families are also taking more precautions at public events and gatherings.

Church leaders at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul are asking Philadelphia's 1.5 million Catholics to help slow the spread of germs.

One suggestion is to avoid shaking hands during greetings this time of year when people are sick.

They're also suggesting that members refrain from drinking from the shared chalice during communion if they aren't feeling well.

The health department is monitoring infection rates around the world.

Officials continue to stress the importance of washing your hands, not touching your face and avoiding people who are sick.
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