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Michigan officials: Don’t take heartworm medication to prevent, treat COVID-19

Drug was not tested on humans

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV.
Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. (CDC/ Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin)

DETROIT – A warning was issued Wednesday about humans using a heartworm drug to prevent or treat coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of Health and Human Services, a pre-publication paper for the journal Antiviral Research said COVID-19 responded to ivermectin in a petri dish.

However, ivermectin was not given to people nor animals in the study.

Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent heartworm in some small animal species, as well as treat certain internal and external parasites, including head lice, in various animal species, as well as humans.

“We cannot emphasize this strongly enough: this study was not tested in humans or in animals,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland. “It was done in a petri dish. As intriguing as the results may be, at this point, they mean little to nothing in the actual prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in either animals or humans. Ivermectin sold for use in animals has not been evaluated for safety in species other than those listed on the label and may cause serious harm if taken by people.”

MORE: What the CDC says you should do if you believe you have coronavirus (COVID-19)

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.


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