Pharmacies across Greater Victoria have sold out of masks and other medical supplies following the coronavirus outbreak. (News Staff)

Greater Victoria pharmacies sell out of masks, hand sanitizer in wake of coronavirus

Island Health sees slight increase in hospital visits

Pharmacies across Greater Victoria are out of masks and hand sanitizer following reports of the new coronavirus making its way to B.C.

On Jan. 28, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry confirmed that a man in his 40s who regularly visits China was diagnosed with the virus in Vancouver.

As of Thursday morning , the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that globally there are 7,818 confirmed cases, with 170 confirmed deaths, with a vast majority of cases being in China.

READ MORE: B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

Since news of the virus hit the streets, people have scrambled for health equipment.

Staff at the downtown Rexall, located at 912 Douglas St., said they were sold out of masks, and that hand sanitizer was slowly depleting.

“The masks won’t prevent a viral infection, especially if you’re always readjusting them with unwashed hands,” a Rexall staff member told Black Press Media. “You’ve really just got to keep washing your hands.”

Rexall stores across the region are also sold out of masks, due to their manufacturers being sold out for the indefinite future.

The downtown Shoppers Drug Mart at 1212 Douglas St. is also out of masks, with none expected until next week. The shop did, however, get a new stock of hand sanitizer.

The View Street Pharmacy at 867 View St. said people scrambled in to buy masks two weeks ago.

“We are sold out of face masks, some people bought two or three boxes,” said pharmacist Akiko Friedland. “For hand sanitizer, we have six small units left, the big ones sold out.”

More masks are expected at that location in two weeks.

Creig Forster, pharmacist at the London Drugs at 1907 Sooke Rd., said London Drugs stores across the capital region are out of masks.

“I know there’s some discussion about how effective masks are,” Forster said. “My advice is if you want to wear a face mask, you can wear one… there’s a comfort factor to them, but it’s not a be all, end all. It’s more about other common sense precautions used for any other virus.”

This includes washing hands, avoiding contact with sick people, and not touching your face.

Forster also advised that people take a multivitamin to help keep their immune systems strong, and that people with compromised immune systems ask their doctors about receiving a pneumonia vaccine, since coronovirus can often turn into pneumonia.

ALSO READ: B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai– ‘Everyone is on edge’

Island Health told Black Press Media that it has seen “a slight increase” in visits from people to emergency rooms concerned about the coronavirus.

“There is ongoing monitoring and planning calls occurring throughout the province to support all staff in education and next steps related to this health challenge,” said media spokesperson Valerie McKay in an email.

“At this time, public health officials remind everyone the risk to the public remains low. Similar to the cold and flu season, people should follow proper hand hygiene, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoid others who are unwell, stay home when you are unwell, and remember to consult with family physician and care teams, urgent care centres or 811 as resources.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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