US President Donald Trump said he did not take responsibility for the rise in calls to poison control and emergency hotlines. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP
US President Donald Trump said he did not take responsibility for the rise in calls to poison control and emergency hotlines. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP

Hotlines flooded with disinfectant calls

Calls to poison control and emergency hotlines in a number of US states have spiked in the days since President Donald Trump mused about injecting disinfectant into the body to wipe out COVID-19.

He soon backtracked on his comments from Thursday, telling reporters he was "asking the question sarcastically" despite being seen straight-talking to his medical advisers.

On Monday, Mr Trump said he "can't imagine why" there had been an increase in calls.

"I can't imagine that," he said.

Asked whether he took responsibility at all for the rise, he replied: "No, I don't."



Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, a fellow Republican, said his state had been swamped with queries.

"We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants," he told CBS on Sunday.

"Which is, you know, hard to imagine that people thought that was serious.

"But what people actually were thinking about this was, (is) this something you could do to protect yourself?"

He said it was "always critically important" for a leader to release facts and to be open, honest and transparent.

"And I think it's critical that the President of the United States, when people are really scared and in the middle of this worldwide pandemic, that in these press conferences that we really get the facts out there," Gov. Hogan said.

Maryland Emergency Management Agency had to warn residents against consuming or administering disinfectant to the body.

Gov. Hogan said callers to the health department's emergency hotline asked "if it was right to ingest Clorox", a disinfecting bleach, or alcohol cleaning products.

"We had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people," Gov. Hogan told MSNBC.

"I think when misinformation comes out, or you just say something that pops in your head, it does send a wrong message."

Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said similar scenes had played out in her state.

"When the person with the most powerful position on the planet is encouraging people to think about disinfectants, whether it was serious or not, people listen," she told ABC News' This Week on the weekend.

"We have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control so I think it's really important that everyone of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information.

"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."

The maker of popular disinfectant brands Lysol and Dettol, Reckitt Benckiser, also released a statement urging people to avoid "internal administration" of their products.

New York City's health department recorded 30 cases in the 18 hours after his initial comments, according to figures reported by New York Daily News.

This included nine cases specifically regarding exposure to Lysol, 10 cases about bleach and 11 cases about other household cleaners compared to a total of 13 cases in the same time period last year.

The NYC Health poison control page states: "Do not ingest or inject Lysol or any other disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19. Household disinfectants are poisonous and can cause serious harm or even death if swallowed or injected."



The President wondered aloud at a White House coronavirus press briefing on Thursday night after hearing from Bill Bryan, the Department of Homeland Security's acting undersecretary for science and technology.

"I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it," Mr Trump said, turning to face Mr Bryan.

"And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting.

"And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.

"So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."

US President Donald Trump made the initial remarks on Thursday, April 23. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP
US President Donald Trump made the initial remarks on Thursday, April 23. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP

Dr Vin Gupta, a Harvard-trained lung specialist, told CNN the idea doesn't need to be studied at all.

"The idea that we would do a trial of some sort and inject some people with disinfectant and some people not and see what happens. I think everybody would know that would be dangerous and counter-productive," he said.

Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician, "completely" agreed.

"I also worry that there are a lot of people for whom President Trump is the most trusted messenger and I really hope that people are not listening to what he said today and thinking 'well maybe I should try this myself at home'," she said on Thursday night.

The next day, Mr Trump said he had asked the question "sarcastically to reporters … to see what would happen".

"Now disinfectant maybe on the hands would work. I was asking a question of the gentleman who was there yesterday, Bill, because when they say that something will last three or four hours or six hours but if the sun is out or they use disinfectant it goes away in less than a minute," he said.

"What I was asking was a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room."

The Washington Post reported Mr Trump on Saturday morning retweeted a warning from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention about disinfectants.


Dr Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, told Fox News Sunday the US had reached a "plateau" of COVID-19 cases but was still recording about 30,000 new cases every day and "something in order of 2000 deaths per day".

Based on these figures, the US is expected to reach one million cases on Tuesday.

Originally published as Hotlines flooded with disinfectant calls

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