PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- At Stanley's True Value in Philadelphia's Roxborough section, the mask aisle was empty on Wednesday. The demand comes one day after U.S. health officials issued a strong warning about the novel coronavirus.
"It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it," says Bill Ross of East Falls.
Until now, health officials hoped to prevent community spread in the U.S. from occurring. But following community transmission in countries Italy, Iran and South Korea, health officials believe the virus may not be able to be contained at the border and are urging residents to prepare.
Ross is concerned about the spread of coronavirus. Ahead of his trip to Italy, he's been hard-pressed to find face masks.
"An N95 (mask) is what you need at all True Value stores are out of it," said Ross.
Local drugstores like Dake's Drug Store in Bala Cynwyd are out of masks as well.
"I've heard that nobody has them in, you can find them online and I heard the price went up just due to demand," said pharmacist Steve Theodorou.
Their mask supplier estimates the next shipment in late March.
But doctors say surgical masks, made of cotton, won't help much to prevent catching a virus. Instead, use them if you are already sick.
"If someone is sick, they should wear a surgical mask to prevent them from spreading germs to other people. They aren't good for blocking germs from getting into you," says Dr. Eric Sachinwalla of Einstein Hospital.
N95 masks, masks with respirators, do block disease particles and are in high demand both from the public and the government. The CDC is requesting an additional 300 million N95 masks.
"The coronavirus is concerning from a global health perspective, but I think for a normal person the chances are much higher for contracting flu then COVID-19," says Dr. Eric Sachinwalla.
In the meantime, remember to wash your hands and clean hard surfaces with bleach.
"The good thing is that things that you do to protect yourself from the flu are good for protecting from COVID-19 as well," said Sachinwalla.
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