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Arizona man dies, wife hospitalized after ingesting substance used to treat fish tanks to prevent COVID-19

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Phoenix, Arizona — A man is dead and his wife is in critical condition after they reportedly swallowed chloroquine phosphate, thinking it would help prevent them from catching the COVID-19 coronavirus.

NBC News reports that the woman said she heard President Trump mention the benefits of chloroquine in combating the coronavirus. Chloroquine phosphate is not the medication form, however. It is an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks, according to azfamily.com.

The woman tells NBC news she had used chloroquine to treat her koi fish. “I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'” said the woman, who does not want to be identified, according to NBC News.

The Associated Press reports the man and woman, both in their 60’s, became extremely ill within 30 minutes of swallowing a mixture of chloroquine phosphate with water.

“I started vomiting,” the woman tells NBC News. “My husband started developing respiratory problems and wanted to hold my hand.” Both were taken to the hospital but the man could not be resuscitated.

Health officials are urging people not to try to self-medicate during the coronavirus pandemic. No drugs have been approved to treat the virus, reports say.

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, tells azfamily.com. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

The AP reports Trump falsely stated last week that the Food and Drug Administration had just approved the use of an anti-malaria medication called chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus. The FDA chief clarified the drug still needs to be tested for that use, but Trump overstated the drug’s potential upside in containing the virus, according to the AP.

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