Coronavirus: Health officials warn against using livestock drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19

Amid a surging caseload and low vaccination rate, Mississippi Department of Health officials issued a warning Friday to residents to stop using ivermectin, a drug used to treat animals for parasites, as a homemade remedy against COVID-19.

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“I think some people are trying to use it as a preventative, which I think is really kind of crazy,” the state’s top health official Thomas Dobbs said, The Washington Post reported. “So please don’t do that.”

At least 70% of recent calls to the state Poison Control Center were related to ivermectin exposure. There have not been any hospitalizations reported to the state department of health and poison control center. However, The Mississippi Free Press reported at least one person was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Taking ivermectin can interact with other drugs like blood thinners. Side effects from too much exposure include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

In March, the Food and Drug Administration warned against using the drug often used to treat parasites in animals, after there were reports of people self-medicating using dosages meant for horses.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency said Saturday on social media.

The agency has not approved its use to treat or prevent COVID-19.

“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” the food safety agency said.

Caseloads are surging throughout Mississippi, where about 37% of the population is vaccinated, far lower than the national rate of 51%, according to the CDC. It is the second-lowest rate of vaccination in the country.

Statewide, there has been 406,249 total confirmed cases and 4,991 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to The New York Times.

“We are clearly at the worst part of the pandemic that we’ve seen throughout, and it’s continued to worsen,” Dobbs said at a Thursday news conference, The Washington Post reported. “We’re seeing higher and higher numbers of not just cases but hospitalizations, people in intensive care units, life support. And sadly, as we’ve seen, additional deaths are going to follow. Without a doubt we have surpassed our previous peaks by a substantial margin, and we expect to see that continue.”