'We were afraid of getting sick': Man dies after ingesting fish medication he thought would prevent COVID-19

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A man has died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, believing he was taking chloroquine, an antimalarial medication, in an effort to prevent coronaviurs. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images)

An Arizona man has died after ingesting medication he believed would help prevent him from contracting the novel coronavirus.

In an interview with NBC News, the man’s wife said she believed she could prevent contracting the virus after she heard U.S. president Donald Trump speaking about the potential benefits of chloroquine, a medication used to treat malaria in humans, as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

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In a tragic mistake, the 68-year-old man and 61-year-old woman actually ingested the additive chloroquine phosphate, a toxic ingredient in parasite medication she had previously used to treat her sick koi fish.

“We saw Trump on TV — every channel — and all of his buddies and that this was safe," the woman told NBC News correspondent Vaughan Hillyard. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure."

The woman believed that both she and her husband were considered high risk fo the novel coronavirus, and said she remembered seeing the word “choloroquine” written on the fish medication.

“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn't that the stuff they're talking about on TV?’” the wife said. “We were afraid of getting sick.”

Health officials are warning the public not to take treatments such as chloroquine to treat or prevent the coronavirus. (Image via Getty Images)


Still believing it was the same medication Trump had spoken about, the couple mixed some of the fish medication with some liquid and drink it. Within 20 minutes, both became ill and felt “dizzy and hot.” The woman said she began vomiting while her husband was struggling to breathe.

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“My husband started developing respiratory problems and wanted to hold my hand,” she recalled. The woman called 911 although she struggled to answer some of their questions. “I was having a hard time talking, falling down.”

Upon their arrival to the hospital, the husband died and the wife was placed in critical care.

A man died after ingesting a toxic substance used to clean aquariums, believing it was the anti-viral drug, chloroquine. (Image via Getty Images).

Banner Health, a non-profit healthcare system in Arizona that treated both patients, confirmed that couple had ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive often used at aquariums to clean fish tanks, believing it was chloroquine.

Chloroquine, also known as Hydroxychloroquine, is an anti-parasite and immunosuppressant used to treat, and prevent malaria and some inflammatory conditions.

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“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,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also stated that there are currently no drugs approved to treat COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The current course of action includes infection prevention, control measures and supportive care including supplementary oxygen and medical ventilation when required. Similarly, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control issued a tweet warning the public against using chloroquine to treat or prevent the virus.

Now, the woman wants to warn people not to make the same mistake she did and to listen to doctors and public health regarding coronavirus.

“Be careful and call your doctor," she said. “This is a heartache I'll never get over.”

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