Uptick in Mississippi poison control calls from people who take livestock dewormer to treat COVID-19

At least 70 percent of the recent calls have been in regards to ingestion of ivermectin bought at feed stores
Ivermectin use concerns
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mississippi’s Poison Control is reporting an alarming uptick in calls from people who took a drug bought at a feed store meant to deworm livestock.

Some believe it will help with COVID-19, but veterinary experts warn if you buy it at a feed store, it could possibly leave you paralyzed.

“Everyday, everyday, people, phone calls, phone calls, people coming in,” Raina Boudreaux at Double M Feed, Garden & Pet Supply describes.

Boudreaux says it started a month ago.

“It has been flying off the shelves and as of right now, it’s very hard for us to even get,” Boudreaux said.

She put out 10 tubes of Ivermectin paste for livestock just this morning.

“I am completely out as of right now,” Boudreaux said a few hours before closing time.

She says a woman even came in from Mississippi to get some for her farm because it’s hard to get your hands on right now, even for vendors.

“They’re telling us that I can only get 12, maybe 24 bottles,” Boudreaux said.

Mississippi’s Health Department put out a warning because poison control reports at least 70 percent of the recent calls have been related to ingestion of ivermectin meant for livestock.


Meanwhile, Tractor Supply is starting to display signs in stores because of the rush.

Ivermectin product advisory displayed in stores.
Ivermectin product advisory displayed in stores.(Tractor Supply)

“When you use a product that is highly concentrated that is designed in an oral form for a horse or cattle, it is easy to overdose,” Dr. Mike Strain, the Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry said.

It gained popularity over social media as a COVID-19 cure and preventative treatment, even though the FDA has not approved it for that purpose and explicitly tells people not to take it for COVID.

Merck, the drug’s manufacturer, says the current data does not show it is safe or effective to use for anything other than what it has been approved for.

“The New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet, which is one of the primary British journals of medicine, have since removed the article that was placed in there, the study talking about the effectiveness of this drug treatment,” Strain said.

Ivermectin is approved to use for parasites, lice, and some skin conditions in humans as well as deworming animals.

But, animal drugs are highly concentrated and can be highly toxic in humans.

“There is a specific drug for humans, made for humans, it is a three-milligram dose and you get it by prescription from a pharmacy and it is very well controlled,” Strain said.

He says it’s very carefully controlled because ivermectin is a powerful neural paralytic agent.

“In high enough doses that will cross the blood-brain barrier and what it does, it basically can result in paralysis,” Strain said. “There it is very difficult to treat.”

The toxicity in animals is highly variable, Strain says. Some animals can’t even take it and it’s so powerful it’s used in one dose or over the course of just a couple of days.

“Where it really is concerning is if people are taking it either daily or weekly,” Strain said. “The thing that is we know that this drug can remain in your system for a period of time and so depending on your body’s ability to clear the drug every time you take it, you’re increasing the total amount of drugs in your system, which can lead to overdose over time, if not from a single dose.”

Mississippi’s Poison Control says 85% of the callers had mild symptoms and no one has been hospitalized.

Louisiana’s poison control says it’s received calls from 18 people who have taken the drug.

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