HEALTH

Mississippi Poison Calls Soar As Vaccine Skeptics Turn To Livestock Drug For COVID-19

"You wouldn't get your chemotherapy at a feed store," warned a state health official. Livestock anti-parasite medication ivermectin can be deadly to humans.

Mississippi health officials are pleading with state residents not to take a livestock drug to treat COVID-19 as calls to poison control centers soar.

Fearful Mississipians skeptical of the safety of vaccinations are shockingly turning instead to swallowing ivermectin — generally used to eradicate or prevent parasites in livestock. 

“Do not use ivermectin products made for animals,” Mississippi’s Health Department flatly stated in a Facebook post Friday. “Animal doses are not safe for humans.”

“I think some people are trying to use it as a [COVID-19] preventative, which I think is really kind of crazy, so please don’t do that,” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a press briefing Wednesday. (See the video up top.)

“You wouldn’t get your chemotherapy at a feed store. You wouldn’t treat your pneumonia with your animal’s medication,” he added. “It can be dangerous to get the wrong doses of medication, especially for something that’s meant for a horse or a cow. It’s really important, if people have medical needs, go through your physician or provider.”

Officials also issued an alert Friday to health care providers in the state concerning the increase in poison control calls due to possible ivermectin toxicity.

“At least 70% of the recent calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers,” noted the alert.

Ivermectin can be deadly in large doses. Most callers to Mississippi’s poison control center had mild symptoms, though one caller was advised to seek further care “due to the amount of ivermectin reportedly ingested,” according to the alert.

At least one person in the state was hospitalized because of ivermectin toxicity, the Mississippi Free Press reported.

Though ivermectin is commonly used to treat or prevent parasites in livestock, far smaller dose tablets have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms in people. Topical forms are approved to treat human conditions such as head lice and rosacea.  But doses are vastly decreased from what might be used for a cow, for example.

The drug is not approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. Using any drugs not approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19 can “cause serious harm,” the agency warned.

The FDA issued it own warning against ivermectin use earlier this year after the agency noted “multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.”

The high doses of ivermectin products for animals “can be highly toxic in humans,” the FDA added. Versions of the drug approved for humans could also interact with other medications, and people could overdose and potentially die, the agency warned.

Mississippi currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the nation and is tied for the worst vaccination rate, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 20,000 students in the state were quarantined the first week of school amid soaring cases of the delta variant of COVID-19.

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