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Swine flu scammers selling fake remedies online

May 1, 2009 |  6:54 pm

Did you know that a silver solution has the power to kill the swine flu virus?

Hogwash, says the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission, which issued warnings Friday that scammers are taking advantage of the swine flu scare to sell worthless, even dangerous  "remedies."

An Internet search coughed up sites selling colloidal silver, which is basically water that includes silver particles. The ads say the swine flu virus (also known as H1N1), can be killed by washing the skin and even the hair with the stuff.

But colloidal silver as a cure-all is a fraud with a long history, with quacks claiming over the years it could be used to treat cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, diabetes and numerous other diseases.

In 1999, the FDA banned therapeutic claims for over-the-counter colloidal silver products. Studies showed the solution could be dangerous, causing seizures and kidney damage. Pregnant women were specifically warned because colloidal silver could cause harm to fetuses. 

So, when it comes to swine flu, there's no silver lining. Simple hand-washing is one of the best defenses against getting the flu, experts say, and if you do get it there are only two FDA-approved antiviral drugs for treatment, Tamiflu and Relenza, both of which are available only by prescription.

—David Colker

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