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Utah ivermectin poisoning case highlights growing problem

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 Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of the parasite drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and that there's little evidence it helps. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man suffered serious health effects after taking a very large dose of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug typically used by veterinarians. 

The Utah Department of Health issued a warning Tuesday, saying the man ingested large doses of ivermectin to either cure or prevent COVID-19. He suffered serious side effects, winding up in the hospital for treatment. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen stresses people should never take the dose of ivermectin meant for animals, like horses or cows. It comes in a much higher dose, and it’s more than enough to make humans sick. 

“Ivermectin is used by veterinarians to treat parasites in animals,” Nolen said. 

Utah doctor: No evidence to suggest ivermectin treats or prevents COVID

Addressing internet rumors about the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID, Nolen said absolutely no evidence supports that claim. Worse, the Federal Drug Administration says using ivermectin can result in serious injury or hospitalization. 

“It can actually affect your organ systems,” Nolen said, “including seizures and unconsciousness.” 

The Utah Poison Control Center reports a 4.5 times higher rate of ivermectin exposure this year than in 2020. Many people calling in about possible side effects say they found the drug at feed stores. Those stores offer over the counter formulations of the drugs meant for horses and other animals.

Nolen said health officials plan to spread the word among those stores. They hope they can post warnings for people who may purchase it.

Half of the people who called the Utah Poison Control Center after using ivermectin required medical attention. 

Ivermectin can treat roundworm in humans, but is not available without a prescription. 

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