A NIOSH N95 particulate respirator by 3M. (Photo by Banej from Wikipedia)A NIOSH N95 particulate respirator by 3M. (Photo by Banej from Wikipedia)

Medical mask shortage in Sarnia

The new coronavirus outbreak seems to be affecting the supply of medical face masks in Sarnia-Lambton.

Sarnia's Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire and four area pharmacies all confirmed with Blackburn News that they're currently sold out of the product.

Sarnia Pharmacy Owner Amgad Kiwan said it's been weeks since they've had the masks in stock.

"We had some maybe 20 days ago but we sold out and now we can't find anymore. We have two wholesalers but everyday I check with them there is nothing available," said Kiwan. "I think people are trying to protect themselves but unfortunately we just cannot find anymore. Customers have been asking for them and we get many phone calls asking about them as well. Hopefully there will be some available soon but I'm not exactly sure when that will be."

Kiwan said since taking over the Maxwell Street pharmacy in 2009, he's never seen such a high demand for the face masks.

However, Lambton County Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade said a mask won't do much to prevent you from getting sick.

"If you are already exhibiting any kind of respiratory symptoms then kind of a general surgical mask, but not necessarily a N-95 mask, could help stop from spreading droplets onto other surfaces," said Ranade. "But if you are well and not experiencing any symptoms then there is really no role for a mask that you should consider to wear in public -- the evidence isn't that strong that it's going to actually protect you."

Dr. Ranade said there still are a number of steps you can take to help avoid getting sick.

"Things that do protect you are keeping away from other people when you are sick, trying to stay away from people who are actively exhibiting symptoms of illness and doing things like washing your hands frequently, especially avoid touching your face, those kind of things."

Earlier this week Health Minister Patty Hajdu encouraged Canadians to stockpile medication and food in their homes in case they or a loved one falls ill with the new coronavirus.

Read More Local Stories