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Increased fears over swine flu have made surgical masks a hot commodity in the Quad-Cities.

Area medical supply companies report that the masks have been selling briskly since Monday when the federal government declared the virus a public health concern.

Genesis Home Medical Equipment has sold 50 masks a day since Monday, said Peggy Douglas, a respiratory therapist.

That is the case at Kelly’s Medical Equipment and Supply in Moline. Demand has not been strong at the company’s Davenport store, but sales have been brisk at the Illinois location.

“We are down to about a box-and-a-half of adult (masks) and about two boxes of the small (masks),” Kelly’s employee Rhonda Gunter said. “We normally only sell one or two a month, depending on the season.”

The masks offer some protection from a virus, but they should not be relied on completely, said Marvis Hafner, a registered nurse and infection preventionist for Trinity Regional Health Systems. She thinks people see news reports with images of people wearing masks and parrot the idea.

“It is meant for people who have been exposed,” she said. “Just wearing it for the sake of wearing it, I wouldn’t.

“They are going to give protection, definitely, but they aren’t a filtering mask.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends giving masks to people who are sick rather than healthy people.

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