After Trump's Disinfectant Comments, Calls to Poison Control Centers Spike in New York, Michigan, Illinois and Maryland

Calls made to poison control centers in at least four states have spiked over the past few days after President Donald Trump appeared to suggest injecting disinfectant products should be looked into as a method to treat coronavirus patients.

Faced with widespread backlash, Trump on Friday said he was merely being sarcastic when he suggested that chemical disinfectants or ultraviolet light could be used to treat COVID-19 during Thursday's White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing.

The president's clarification came hours after the manufacturer of Lysol and Dettol and an organization representing cleaning product producers warned Americans not to inject disinfectant products into their bodies to protect people from following Trump's dangerous sarcastic suggestion. Reckitt Benckiser said on Friday that its products should "under no circumstances" be injected into people's bodies. Additionally, the American Cleaning Institute, an industry organization representing companies in the cleaning product sector, also warned people not to ingest, inject or use disinfectants on skin.

Authorities in New York, Michigan, Maryland and Illinois have reported increases in calls to their poison control centers pertaining to exposure to household cleaning products in the days after Trump's Thursday remarks, despite his later insistence that his suggestion was sarcasm.

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told National Public Radio that their poison control center received 30 calls in the 18 hours following Trump's comments, a figure that more than doubled the 13 cases that occurred during the same period in 2019. Department spokesperson Pedro F. Frisneda said 10 cases were related to bleach exposure, nine to Lysol and the remaining 11 to various other household cleaning products.

"I see the disinfectant — where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump asked at the Thursday briefing, before walking back the suggestion one day later. A clear link has not been established between Trump's comments and the rise in calls made to the New York poison control center, but several other states, including Michigan, Illinois and Maryland, have also reported increases in cases following the controversial press briefing.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) on Sunday both indicated that their respective states had recorded a rise in calls made to emergency hotlines since Trump's statement.

"Hundreds of calls come into our emergency hotline at our health department asking if it was right to ingest Clorox or alcohol cleaning products – whether that was going to help them fight the virus," Hogan told ABC News' This Week host George Stephanopoulos. "So, we had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people actually to do it."

Whitmer echoed Hogan's remarks on Sunday's This Week as well. "We have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control and so I think it's really important that every one of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information," she said. "I want to say, unequivocally no one should be using disinfectant — to digest it to fight COVID-19."

"Please don't do it. Just don't do it," Whitmer added.

Their warnings came two days after Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that the state had seen a "significant increase in calls to the Illinois Poison Control Center in association with exposure to cleaning agents" since Thursday. Ezike's remarks were issued at the Illinois coronavirus briefing on Friday.

"Injecting, ingesting, or snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised, and it can be deadly," Ezike added, joining hundreds of domestic public health officials that have asked people not to use those methods to treat coronavirus.

When asked by Newsweek to respond to the increase in calls to domestic poison control centers on Sunday, a White House spokesperson blamed the media for allegedly taking Trump's remarks out of context. "The media has lost control with their mischaracterizations and outlandish headlines about what the President said, and completely ignore that he has consistently emphasized that Americans should consult with their doctors regarding coronavirus treatment," the spokesperson said in an email.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday released a similar statement. "President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday's briefing," she said. "Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
After Trump's Disinfectant Comments, Calls to Poison Control Centers Spike in New York, Michigan, Illinois and Maryland | U.S.