‘Do not ingest or inject disinfectants,' N.J.'s top health official says after Trump controversy

Posted Apr 24, 2020

Do practice safety when handling cleaning products, New Jersey’s top health official said Friday.

Do not swallow them or inject them into your body, she added.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli delivered the warning a day after President Donald Trump drew controversy and sparked debate for musing about whether doctors could use strong light and disinfectants to help kill the coronavirus.

Persichilli’s remarks echo similar warnings from health experts, politicians, and cleaning-product companies in the wake of Trump’s remarks.

During the state’s daily coronavirus press briefing in Trenton Friday afternoon, Persichilli said using cleaning products safely is important because the state has seen an increase in calls to poison control during the pandemic. She said to follow directions closely, wear disposable gloves, and ensure proper ventilation while cleaning.

“And certainly, they should never be ingested or injected,” she added.

“When they’re swallowed, many household products cause sever gastrointenstinal symptoms,” Persichilli continued. “You may be repeatedly sick and vomit. You may vomit blood. You may experience swelling of the tongue or lips or have burns to the esophagus. You may have abdominal pain and notice blood in your stools.”

“Do not ingest or inject disinfectants,” the state health commissioner repeated.

Trump did not directly say during his White House news briefing Thursday evening that people should drink or inject bleach or other disinfectants to battle the virus. He did wonder whether light and disinfectants could provide some sort of treatment for COVID-19.

It started when William Bryan, the top science official at the federal Department of Homeland Security, was discussing a study on the biology of the illness, noting the “powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus” and that injective sunlight and UV rays into it causes the virus to die at a “much more rapid pace.” Bryan also said researchers are testing bleach, isopropyl alcohol, and other disinfectants and finding it kills the virus more quickly.

Trump then took the podium, saying “supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light” and “supposing you brought the light inside the body.” He then said “then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.”

“And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleansing?” Trump asked. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

Bryan said later his department would not inject patients with bleach or isopropyl alcohol in its lab.

Trump then said it wouldn’t be “through injection” but “almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area.”

On Friday, Reckitt Benckiser, the company that makes Lysol, issued a statement saying “we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday morning that Trump’s remarks were taken out of context.

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said in a statement.

“Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” she added.

And Trump himself said later Friday he was being sarcastic.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen," the president said.

New Jersey, a state of 9 million residents, has now seen at least 102,196 cases of the coronavirus and 5,617 deaths attributed to the virus, officials said Friday. That’s after the state reported another 3,047 positive tests and 253 related fatalities.

Gov. Phil Murphy also said some of the state’s counties are seeing the rate of infection increasing again. But Murphy stressed that the rates of hospitalizations, critical care patients, ventilator use, and deaths are stabilizing.

Still, he said his orders for residents to stay home and nonessential businesses to close must remain in place to keep fighting the virus’ spread.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said.

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