COVID Q&A: hydroxychloroquine, deaths, and dangerous hand sanitizers

Is hydroxychloroquine considered an effective treatment for COVID-19?

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19, according to the FDA, citing reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.

Anyone considering using hydroxychloroquine should consult with a medical professional before beginning to use it. The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends against using hydroxychloroquine except for people in clinical trials due to lack of evidence of clinical benefit and increased risk for abnormal heart rhythms and other side effects with the use of this medicine.

How are COVID-19 deaths counted? Can you compare the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 to those caused by flu in Idaho?

The COVID-19 numbers for confirmed deaths include people who have died with positive PCR laboratory testing results. Probable deaths include people who have died without a positive PCR lab test, but who either had COVID-like illness and evidence of exposure to the virus, or the death certificate listed COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 as contributing to the person’s death.  

COVID-19 has caused more deaths in Idaho in a very short period than flu has been reported to cause over several seasons. In less than six months, Idaho has logged 273 deaths related to COVID-19 as of Aug. 17. Reported flu-related deaths rarely top more than 100 in a single season, which typically lasts from October to May.

Reported flu deaths in Idaho, 2016-2020

  • 2019-2020: 39 deaths
  • 2018-2019: 58 deaths
  • 2017-2018: 101 deaths
  • 2016-2017: 72 deaths

It will be very important this fall, when flu season begins and COVID-19 is still circulating, for everyone 6 months and older to get an annual flu vaccine, and to keep following the COVID-19 guidelines – wear a mask and keep six feet between you and everyone else in public, stay home if you feel sick, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

Which hand sanitizers are dangerous to use?

The FDA is tracking this pretty closely, and there are several that the agency has urged people not to use because they use ingredients that are not safe, such as methanol. The FDA has a list that it updates regularly at this website:  https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-consumers-should-not-use#products

Regular handwashing with soap and water also works to clean and sanitize your hands as we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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