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Explosion of internet advertisements for protection against SARS

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 26 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:900
  1. Fred Charatan
  1. Philadelphia

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has generated nearly a half million new websites on the internet.

    On nearly every page, advertisers offer protection against the disease—ranging from respiratory masks and disinfectants to nutrient supplements that, the vendors claim, strengthen the immune system.

    Antec International, a British company, and its American distributor, Biosafety USA, is selling Virkon, a disinfectant that they claim kills the agent causing SARS. But Dr Ronald Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia and a specialist in infectious diseases, said Antec could not have tested the disinfectant because so little is known about SARS.

    Heinz Niedermaier, chief executive of Biosafety USA, confirmed that the company had not tested the product in relation to SARS and acknowledged that its claim might be exaggerated.

    SARS Research Laboratories offers a SARS travel kit for $49.95 (£32; €46). The kit comprising two masks, silver aromatic respiratory solution, ingestible colloidal silver, 10 pairs of latex gloves, silver skin liquid bandages (to protect cuts and other exposed areas from potential contact with the SARS virus), and antiseptic hand wash with colloidal silver and tea tree oil.

    Young Again Nutrients says its supplement Beta Glucan can bolster the immune system and help protect against SARS. Sixty capsules cost from $23.95 to $135.

    Federal health officials warn that consumers should be wary of most claims made for protection against SARS and be aware that companies seem to be playing on fear. Dr Mark McClellan, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said that masks might be needed for healthcare workers caring for patients with suspected SARS but that most people do not need them.

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