CALGARY -- As worries about the spread of COVID-19 mount across the country, including here in Alberta after officials announced the first presumptive case in the province, many people are scouring stores for anything purported to prevent infection.

We've already heard about anxious Canadians rushing out to stock up on household items like toilet paper and other necessities, and even how a massive hand sanitizer shortage has taken hold in North America.

However, a number of products regularly sold in stores are falling victim to third-party retailers looking to make a profit online.

Products like Emergen-C, a popular Vitamin C supplement, and zinc elderberry lozenges are both used as remedies for recovering from a cold or boosting one's immune system.

However, in the wake of the novel coronavirus, third-party retailers on websites like Walmart and Amazon have boosted prices to levels several times higher than actual retail prices.

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Not enough research to show vitamin effectiveness

While taking the vitamins on a regular basis wouldn't hurt you, health officials in Alberta say there is no evidence they can help prevent anyone from getting infected by COVID-19.

"We haven't had COVID-19 around for long enough to be able to do any type of research on what supplements might be effective in preventing infection or helping with the body's response," says Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

She adds the increase in the number of people buying a particular product is often something they do when they are "anxious or worried."

"The first thing they want to do is feel like they can do something to have control and so it doesn't surprise me that people are looking for actions they can take that will protect themselves."

Build 72-hour emergency supply, not household hoard

Instead of going out and buying a two-week-long supply of household and other items, Dr. Hinshaw says people should focus on having a standard three-day supply, which is just basic level preparedness.

"If they are, at some point in the future, needing to stay home for two weeks, they might think about who they might have as supports. Friends, family that might be able to run errands for them if they are not able to leave the house. Does their pharmacy deliver? Does their grocery store deliver?"

Dr. Hinshaw adds there is also a lot of information on Alberta Health's website that can help people prepare.

"Some of them are basic, like handwashing, building habits of not touching one's face because often if we touch a surface that has germs on it and touch our eyes or our mouth, we end up introducing germs to ourselves, so stopping doing that is really useful.

"Other things that people can do to protect others like staying home if they feel sick, covering coughs and sneezes with their elbow, those are basic things that people can do that there is evidence that it actually works."