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Health officials warn against using anti-parasite drug for COVID as Utah confirms 1,326 new cases

An IverCare brand package containing a syringe of ivermectin — a drug used to kill worms and other parasites — intended for use in horses only, is shown Sept. 10, in Olympia, Wash. Utah health officials issued a warning Tuesday about using the drug for COVID-19 after a hospital treated a patient who suffered severe side effects.

An IverCare brand package containing a syringe of ivermectin — a drug used to kill worms and other parasites — intended for use in horses only, is shown Sept. 10, in Olympia, Wash. Utah health officials issued a warning Tuesday about using the drug for COVID-19 after a hospital treated a patient who suffered severe side effects. (Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah hospital recently treated a patient who ingested "large doses" of the anti-parasite drug ivermectin in an attempt to treat COVID-19, health officials announced Tuesday in a statewide warning.

"The patient suffered serious health effects," the Utah Department of Health said.

The news comes as Utah continues to confirm high rates of new coronavirus cases daily. On Tuesday, the state health department confirmed 1,326 additional cases, as well as 25 deaths. The rolling, seven-day average for positive tests is now 1,464 per day, and the percent positivity rate of those tested stands at 13.8%.

"Ivermectin is not a COVID-19 drug; there is no data to suggest this drug has any impact on COVID-19 infection. The continued promotion of the drug has led to an increase in people buying veterinary ivermectin and being hospitalized due to side effects of ingesting the drug," health officials said in a statement.

The health department noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Poison Control Centers are seeing an increase in calls "related to severe side effects due to ivermectin."

Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist, urged doctors to "consider the harm they may cause" by providing the drug to COVID-19 patients.

"While there is no data showing it helps with COVID-19, there is very strong data showing it can do harm. I also encourage pharmacists to question any prescriptions for high-dose ivermectin that is inappropriate for their clients," Nolen said.

The treatment has been touted by some doctors who have proposed alternative treatments for the disease. The controversial Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance has suggested its use, although it is not approved to treat COVID-19 by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Utah Poison Control Center has recorded a 4.5 times higher rate of ivermectin exposures this year compared to last, and exposures related to coronavirus treatment account for 56% of those exposures, according to the statement.

"Fifty percent of people who called us after using ivermectin as a way to treat or prevent COVID-19 have received medical help because of the exposure," Amberly Johnson, director of the Utah Poison Control Center, said in the statement.

Those who have taken ivermectin and are concerned about side effects should call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If it is an emergency, call 911.

The drug is used to treat roundworm infections in humans. A higher-dose veterinary version of ivermectin is used to treat horses and other animals for infections and "is not safe for human use," health officials emphasized.

"The recent uptick in reports of ivermectin misuse are concerning. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food does not endorse the misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 and encourages individuals to consult with a qualified health care provider before undergoing any course of treatment," says Dr. Dean Taylor, state veterinarian.

Latest Utah data

Of the cases reported Tuesday, 294 were confirmed as school-age children — 121 cases were ages 5-10, 74 cases were 11-13, and 99 cases were 14-17, the Utah Department of Health said.

Health care workers administered 9,764 vaccines since Monday's report, bringing total vaccinations given in Utah to 3,399,468 doses, according to the data.

In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have faced 5.9 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.2 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to the coronavirus and 6.6 times greater risk of testing positive than vaccinated people, state health officials said in a statement.

Since Feb. 1, unvaccinated residents have experienced 4.7 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 5.1 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to the disease and 4.4 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, data shows. Those statistics continue to change day-by-day as more people continue to get vaccinated several months after they became available to the public.

Since vaccines became available beginning early this year, the state has confirmed at least 15,179 breakthrough cases, 803 breakthrough hospitalizations and 92 breakthrough deaths. Cases are counted as breakthrough if patients were fully vaccinated more than two weeks before they tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, 580 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah — an increase of three since the previous day. The state continues to see among the highest daily counts of hospitalized coronavirus patients. Referral ICUs that can treat the most seriously ill patients were 92.1% full with coronavirus patients and others; overall ICU use stood at 90.8%; and non-ICUs across the state were 58.7% full.

Deaths reported Tuesday, two of which occurred before September:

  • A Box Elder County man, between the ages of 65 and 84, who was hospitalized when he died.
  • A Davis County woman, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Duchesne County man, older than 85, not hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.
  • Three Salt Lake County men, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Sanpete County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Summit County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Tooele County man, 25-44, hospitalized.
  • A Tooele County man, older than 85, not hospitalized.
  • Two Uintah County men, 25-44, one who was in long-term care facility and one who was hospitalized.
  • Two Utah County women, both older than 85, one who was in long-term care and one who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County man, older than 85, hospitalized.
  • Two Washington County men, 45-64, both hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • Two Weber County women, 65-84, one who was in long-term care and one who was hospitalized.

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