Public/Global Health

Surgical masks selling out across US amid fears over coronavirus

Surgical-style masks at U.S. pharmacies have reportedly begun selling out in multiple U.S. cities amid fears of the new form of coronavirus.

The BBC reported Monday that stores have been selling out of the masks in Washington, D.C., and Seattle, with stockpiling and runs on stores reported in New York and Los Angeles.

“I immediately ordered a box of masks online after I heard of the first U.S. case,” one Chinese student at the University of Washington told the news service.

There have been five confirmed U.S. cases of the disease.

However, the rush of sales may come at no benefit for buyers: Researchers dispute whether the masks are effective when worn in public, and argue that they are more effective to prevent the transmission of the disease from those who already have it.

“There’s little harm in it,” Eric Toner, of the  Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told Business Insider of the masks. “But it’s not likely to be very effective in preventing it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday announced that hundreds of people across the U.S. are being monitored for the virus, and the CDC and the State Department together warned against any unnecessary travel to China.

The virus, believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan province, is thought not to be easily transmissible between humans, though it is possible. Chinese officials announced Sunday that 769 new cases of the virus had been reported in a 24-hour period.

Symptoms of the illness include a form of pneumonia that has killed about 81 people with the disease.

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