Swine flu 'remedies' may be scams

HOUSTON From shampoo to nutritional supplements, consumers can find hundreds of products touting some form of swine flu defense. More than 100 Web sites are currently selling things that the government said may make fraudulent claims about their H1N1 protection capabilities.

Parents are driving hundreds of miles and camping out for hours just to get their children a swine flu shot.

"I think that my fear comes from the fact that Jack has asthma, and the cases that tend to be most critical are with kids who have an underlying condition," mother Lisa Guerrero said.

Currently, the H1N1 vaccine is the only thing proven to prevent the swine flu. But it's not the only product out there promising to prevent people from getting sick or help people recover who do get the virus.

"In any time of crisis, you are going to have outfits out there that are going to capitalize on the public's fear," Monica Russo, with Houston's Better Business Bureau, said. "That is exactly the case of what is going on now."

Dozens of swine flu products are on the market that may not do any good at all, Russo said, and the federal government agrees.

According the Food and Drug Administration, there are more than 140 Web sites using "swine flu" to sell something. Some of the products are not approved, cleared or authorized by the FDA.

"You have all these products that you really don't know," Russo said. "As for supplements, you don't know what's in them.""

The FDA is sending warning letters to businesses advertising supplements claiming to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus. It is also warning consumers against potential harm the products could cause.

"When something is not authorized, it has not gone through the rigorous testing to see if it is safe and effective -- if the product is OK, if there is quality to it," said Porfirio Villareal with the Houston Health Department. "There is a whole rigorous process and it is not being followed."

The FDA has the complete list of the Web sites and the products in question, and officials recommend that -- if consumers have questions about a product -- ask your family doctor before the item is purchased.

Washing hands regularly and hand sanitizer are good ways to prevent the spread of the disease, health officials said. But as far as a remedy, the H1N1 vaccine is it for the time being.

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