H1N1 improving the economy

Emergency rooms and doctor's offices are flooded with phone calls and patients related to the swine flu. For instance, four hospitals in Onondaga County, N.Y. saw an 11% spike in patients in September 2009 over the same month last year.

And while it's causing a fury in the health care industry, some analysts say there may be a few silver linings to the flu.

It appears out of the ashes of all those sniffles and fevers, the ailing economy is getting an unexpected -- but much needed -- boost from the double flu season. Here's a quick look at a couple unexpected economic impacts of this season's H1N1.

Giving sales a hand. Hand sanitizers are flying off store shelves, giving the bottom lines of drug stores and grocers a helping hand. Sales of Purell, a popular brand, have doubled.

Returning to work. Thousands of unemployed Americans are heading back to work -- at least temporarily -- thanks to the flu.

With doctors' offices and clinics being inundated with phone calls and more patients than their normal staff can handle, physicians are looking to temporary employees to pick up the slack.

Karen Colianni of Manpower says her company has received a flurry of requests from health departments, clinics and physician's office.

"Because there are guidelines stating how long a person needs to be home, temps are needed to fill the void," Colianni said.

Increased revenues. Last week pharmaceutical company Novartis raised its forecasted sales figures based on expectations of selling more of its core pharmaceutical products this year -- thanks its new swine flu vaccine.

But not all the economic boosts are good ones.

The chance to capitalize on the flu also has scammers and schemers working overtime. And Americans are spending money on hoaxes.

Sites selling products claiming to reduce chances of developing the H1N1 or to "cure" it continue to emerge, prompting the FDA to develop a swine flu consumer fraud team. Alyson Saben, the head of the team, said the pace of these products has "picked up in recent weeks. We are seeing new sites [with these products] popping up."

The most worrisome: sites claiming to sell Tamiflu without a prescription.

"We have no idea of the conditions under which they were manufactured. They "We have no idea of the conditions under which they were manufactured. They could contain contaminated, counterfeit, impure or subpotent ingredients," Saben said.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in consumer issues.

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