COVID-19, the disease caused by the recent coronavirus outbreak, has people scared. Nobody wants to get sick, and even if the virus won't kill you, it's reasonable to do whatever you can to avoid getting sick.

That has led to people buying items like masks -- which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said don't help -- and hand sanitizer. It has also created a booming market for products that target people's fears about coronavirus and don't actually work.

That's a problem for Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) which has had to crack down on products making claims about effectiveness against the virus.

A person holds a globe wearing a mask that says coronavirus.

Coronavirus has a lot of people concerned. Image source: Getty Images.

Amazon and the coronavirus

The online retail giant has removed over 1 million products that promise to defend against coronavirus, Reuters reported. Amazon has also taken down thousands of items from merchants that were being sold at prices the retailer considered to be price gouging.

"The world's largest online retailer has faced scrutiny over the health-related offers on its platform, and earlier this week Italy launched a probe into surging prices around the internet for sanitizing gels and hygiene masks while it battled the biggest outbreak in Europe," the news service reported.

Amazon's opportunity and responsibility

As a retailer, Amazon has an opportunity to sell a lot of merchandise related to COVID-19. It also has a responsibility to sell items that actually do what they say they do.

That can at times be a bit of a tightrope to walk. Masks, for example, may not be effective, but people want them despite what the CDC says. That forces Amazon to offer that item but to make sure the listings for the product don't offer false promises.