President Donald Trump speaks during a demonstration of ways NASA is helping to combat the coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Friday, April 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a demonstration of ways NASA is helping to combat the coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Friday, April 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump's Covid-19 disinfectant ideas horrify health experts

By Kate Kelland And Raphael Satter Time of article published Apr 24, 2020

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LONDON/WASHINGTON - US President

Donald Trump's musings on whether injecting disinfectants might

treat Covid-19 horrified medical professionals on Friday and

raised fresh concerns that his stream-of-consciousness briefings

could push frightened people to poison themselves with untested

treatments.

An international chorus of doctors and health experts urged

people not to drink or inject disinfectant after Trump on

Thursday suggested that scientists should investigate inserting

the cleaning agent into the body as a way to cure Covid-19, the

respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Trump on Friday sought to portray his remarks as sarcasm.

"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you

just to see what would happen," Trump told reporters at the

White House.

His remarks during his daily media briefing on Thursday,

directed at doctors in the room who serve on his coronavirus

task force, did not come across as sarcasm.

Medical experts denounced Trump's suggestions and leading

Democrats blasted the Republican president.

"It is unfortunate that I have to comment on this, but

people should under no circumstances ingest or inject bleach or

disinfectant," American Medical Association President Patrice

Harris said in a statement. "Rest assured when we eventually

find a treatment for or vaccine against COVID-19, it will not be

in the cleaning supplies aisle."

Trump said on Thursday that scientists should explore

whether inserting ultraviolet light or disinfectant into the

bodies of people infected with the coronavirus might help them

clear the disease.

"Is there a way we can do something like that by injection,

inside, or almost a cleaning?" Trump asked. "It would be

interesting to check that."

Pressed repeatedly about the issue on Friday, Trump said he

was not encouraging people to ingest disinfectant.

Trump also has promoted an anti-malaria drug called

hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 even though its

effectiveness is unproven and there are concerns about heart

issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday

cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients

outside of hospitals and clinical trials, citing risks of

serious heart rhythm problems.

Reckitt Benckiser, a British company that

manufactures the household disinfectants Dettol and Lysol,

issued a statement warning people not to ingest or inject its

products.

The American Cleaning Institute, representing the U.S.

cleaning products industry, said in a statement, "Disinfectants

are meant to kill germs or viruses on hard surfaces. Under no

circumstances should they ever be used on one's skin, ingested

or injected internally."

There were early signs that at least some Americans were

preparing to act on Trump's comments. A spokesman for Maryland's

governor wrote on Twitter that the state's Emergency Management

Agency had received more than 100 calls about the use of bleach

to treat COVID-19.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top

Democrat in the U.S. Congress, said she doubted that the

Republican president was being sarcastic, telling MSNBC

sarcastically "it seemed like he was speaking from his usual

great authority on every subject."

Joe Biden, Trump's presumptive Democratic challenger in the

Nov. 3 U.S. election, wrote on Twitter, "I can't believe I have

to say this, but please don't drink bleach."

TORRENT OF RIDICULE

Trump's suggestion unleashed a torrent of ridicule online,

with one comedian on social media app TikTok miming the action

of injecting bleach into her veins like a drug.

On Twitter, journalists shared a video of Deborah Birx, the

coordinator of the White House task force on the coronavirus,

who appeared to look down, hunch her shoulders, and blink

rapidly as Trump told the briefing that disinfectant "does a

tremendous number on the lungs."

The White House initially on Friday said critics were taking

Trump's remarks out of context. At an Oval Office event later on

Friday, as Trump sought to walk back his comments he also

returned to the notion that disinfectants and sunlight might

help within the body.

Health professionals have been encouraging people to wash

their hands thoroughly with soap or to use hand sanitizer to

combat the spread of the virus.

"I do think that disinfectant on the hands could have a very

good effect," Trump said.

"Sun and heat and humidity wipe it out. And this is from

tests - they've been doing these tests for ... a number of

months. And the result - so then I said, 'Well, how do we do it

inside the body or even outside the body with the hands and

disinfectant I think would work.'"

While ultraviolet rays are known to kill viruses contained

in droplets in the air, doctors say there is no way UV light

could be introduced into the human body to target cells infected

with the coronavirus.

"Neither sitting in the sun, nor heating will kill a virus

replicating in an individual patient's internal organs," said

Penny Ward, a professor in pharmaceutical medicine at Kings

College London.

Reuters

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