H1N1 Flu: Are Surgical Masks Working?

Many local residents are already taking steps to protect themselves from the H1N1 flu, days before any conclusive results are released.

H1N1 fears are prompting a run on surgical masks. These days, folks at BritKare home medical in Amarillo feel like they're a broken record. "We are all out of those masks... We are all sold out of those."

And they're not the only ones fielding those phone calls. We called many of the pharmacies and large chain stores in our area... And most of them have empty shelves. With so many local people following the lead of Mexican citizens donning surgeon-like masks, there's one important thing to note... They may not be the prevention cure-all you think they are.

Amarillo's Texas Tech School of Medicine Dr. Harvey Richey says, "Most people do not need to wear a mask. There shouldn't be any panic over buying masks." The reason... The masks are most effective when worn by someone with H1N1, not by those who are healthy.

Dr. Richey says, "By the time it is out in the atmosphere, it is much smaller and some of that can pass through some brands of these masks."

For all of you extra-cautious folks out there... Don't count on being able to find a surgical mask for sale in Amarillo anytime soon. BritKare's Marketing Director Cale Hawley says, "We have tried to order more and our vendors are telling us that it will be at least one week before we have any more in."

If you absolutely must have one of these masks... We found of them thousands of them up for auction on eBay. Be prepared to shell out big bucks though... Some boxes are going for upwards of $200.