Craigslist is filling up with bizarre ads for infant gas masks, bulk lab coats, and ginseng vodka as fear mounts in US over a possible coronavirus pandemic

Iranian people wear protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus, as they sit in taxi in Tehran, Iran February 25, 2020.WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via REUTERS

  • An outbreak of the novel coronavirus has spread out of China and across to 31 other countries and territories including the United States.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Protection has issued travel warnings, and cities including San Francisco have declared a state of emergency.
  • As fear over the outbreak continues to spread, online marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook and Craigslist have been flooded with offers for gear to protect against the infection.
  • Business Insider found a number of postings that appeared to draw on common myths and fears about coronavirus, offering gas masks, lab coats, and ginseng vodka - none of which are directly recommended by public health agencies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The novel coronavirus has spread across 31 countries and territories, sparking fear and anxiety across the world.

And while public health agencies issue struggle to deal with and contain fear over the crisis, Craigslist sellers are taking advantage of the global uncertainty, and the fact there is no simple cure, to market their own solutions such as boutique face masks that were never designed to protect against the disease, vodka with ginseng, and disinfectant solutions.

Some posts even seem to be trying use panic to drive sales. "Be prepared for fires or any power outages or the Corona Virus," a posting for what appeared to be dehydrated meal kits typically used for the military said.

Another post offered a buy-three-get-one-free "corona virus special" firesale on lab coats.

Online marketplaces have been flooded with offers to buy facemasks in bulk over the past month. And while Amazon has been cracking down on third-party sellers who are hiking prices up, as Wired reported, and Facebook has cracked down on ads that promise to cure the coronavirus, Craigslist seems to remain largely unregulated.

Here are some of the most bizarre ads Business Insider has seen so far.

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Gas masks as 'the first line of defense against Coronavirus or doomsday.'

Gas masks as 'the first line of defense against Coronavirus or doomsday.'

A seemingly satirical posting on New York's Craigslist offers a German civilian gas mask — seals intact, never used. The post adds that it can also be used to protect against doomsday, or a roommate's toxic cooking.

Over 100 lab coats, on sale now!

Over 100 lab coats, on sale now!

The sheer quantity of lab coats that this one Craigslist seller offered is bizarre in its own right.

The post advertises a special deal for lab coats — you can buy three cases of 30 lab coats and get one case of 30 lab coats for free. Act now and 120 lab coats could be yours!

It's not clear as to why the seller thinks lab coats can offer better protection than a regular jacket or coat, as according to the CDC the virus is believed to spread through coughs, sneezes, and close person-to-person contact.

An infant gas mask, complete with an internal feeding bottle

An infant gas mask, complete with an internal feeding bottle

The Los Angeles-based seller of this "infant gas mask" says they purchased it a few years ago, seemingly on a whim, and didn't have a chance to use it on their youngest.

"I do not see the nerve gas syringes pictured in the manual, but everything else is there, including the lithium batteries," the post says.

No coronavirus prep is complete without ginseng vodka

No coronavirus prep is complete without ginseng vodka

This posting starts off by touting the medicinal effects of ginseng — which help reduce inflammation, but don't help when you've contracted coronavirus.

The post also doesn't really get into what the medicinal benefits of vodka would be, but offer these serving suggestions: "how to serve ginseng vodka? drink a half or full shut, dun trash when vodka is gone."

A 'high power electro-static' air purifier

A 'high power electro-static' air purifier

This Denver posting asks buyers to pay $20,000 for a "high power electro-static cleaner" designed to "remove sub-micron size particles" and protect against coronavirus. The seller also includes "pictures of my compound and bio- hazard sealed shop and cabin.To show you I'm for real."

'Masks are gone' — so buy gloves

'Masks are gone' — so buy gloves

This posting prods buyers to anticipate that a shortage of face masks will only grow worse, so stock up on gloves now!

Disinfectant that's 'great for the flu or coronavirus'

Disinfectant that's 'great for the flu or coronavirus'

While the World Health Organization has said that "bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, ether solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform" are all great ways to kill 2019-nCoV on surfaces, it's not clear as to why this particular seller bought 12 gallons worth of disinfectant, or why they urge buyers to "stock and prepare before its gone."

Emergency survival kits

Emergency survival kits

This post repurposes emergency survival kits — typically offered in cases when natural disasters like earthquakes hit cities — for the coronavirus.

Business-casual 'Vogmasks' to avoid looking like a Batman villain

Business-casual 'Vogmasks' to avoid looking like a Batman villain

As cheaper surgical masks grow more scarce, boutique suppliers of face masks like Vogmask have been growing more popular.

Vogmasks are patterned facemasks designed to protect against pollution, and are sold by a boutique supplier based in San Francisco. They were, however, never designed to protect against coronavirus, as the Atlantic reported after an interview with the business's owner, Wendover Brown.

Military-ready meal kits in anticipation of a city-wide ration

Military-ready meal kits in anticipation of a city-wide ration

These "government military issue" meal-kits are marketed with multiple scenarios in mind — fires, power outages, and coronavirus outbreaks.


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