Swine flu paranoia sends sales of hand sanitizer soaring

As emergency rooms fill with people worried about swine flu, and the drumbeat of warnings from the Centers for Disease Control gets louder, Americans are squirting hand sanitizer at an astonishing pace. Between July and September, shipments of hand sanitizer rose a remarkable 129 percent over the previous year, according to Panjiva, a data-tracking and analysis firm.

That growth reflects a huge spike in demand for the slippery stuff as consumers worry more this year about getting sick. It's hard to miss the rapidly growing presence of hand-sanitizer dispensers at gyms, in museums, and in shopping centers. Our local drugstore runs out of the stuff faster than it used to. Even our local supermarket checkout cashiers keep the stuff next to the credit-card terminals, so shoppers can clean their digits after signing their receipts.