CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC UPDATE: CHLOROQUINE POISONING, A BURGEONING PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA

By Akin Ojumu

The moment Donald Trump lend the weight, prestige, and legitimacy of the Office of the President of United States to promote Chloroquine as the “game changer” in the fight against Coronavirus”, and since the day he used the bully pulpit of the White House Briefing Room to loudly praise the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus, you knew it was just a matter of time before we hear the death rattle and see the body bags come out.

As soon as Trump made those pronouncements, the social media went agog, and infectious disease quacks in cyberspace thoughtlessly ran away with it. Chloroquine commercials started trending on Twitter and claims that Hydrochloroquine will miraculously cure Coronavirus went viral on Facebook. Citing bogus clinical trials from China and France, many of which were poorly designed, non-randomized, unblinded, and of unbelievably small sample size, they fill the cyberspace with misleading and dangerous chants of, "Chloroquine works, we want Chloroquine, we want it now!"

Upon hearing the news and reading the viral social media postings proselytizing Chloroquine as the elixir against Coronavirus, the uninitiated and those who have no medical knowledge to understand the serious adverse effects that may result from its misuse and abuse started dosing themselves up with large quantities of Chloroquine. The ignorant and the uninformed began making cocktails and concoctions using Hydrochloroquine; while some mixed it with native medicine to drink, others sprinkled it with their food, and yet another wrapped it up in paper to smoke.

It wasn’t then a surprise to hear that Nigeria has already reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning. According to Bloomberg News, “Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the drug surged in Lagos. Two people were hospitalized in Lagos for chloroquine overdoses, Oreoluwa Finnih, Senior Health Assistant to the Governor of Lagos State, said in an interview.”

It was only a matter of time. That Chloroquine poisoning will become a pandemic in Nigeria was always predictable. This was always bound to come to pass. You don’t have to be a prophet to foresee the danger. This is exactly what happens when those who should know better throw caution into the wind and take to social media to recklessly promote Chloroquine as the magic bullet against the Coronavirus. When heedless sensationalism and hare-brained bombasts on social media become the trend, life and health are bound to suffer the repercussions.

This is the reason infectious diseases experts have urged restraint. Dr Anthony Fauci, a man who has been doing this work for more than forty years, cautioned against the rush to prescribe Choloroquine willy-nilly. It is the reason he repeatedly stressed the importance of testing in a randomized controlled clinical trial, the safety and efficacy of Chloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. Time and again, he warned of the lack of scientific evidence that Chloroquine is safe and efficacious in the treatment of COVID-19. Alas, the social media infectious diseases quacks paid him no heed. Some have even gone to the extent of falsely accusing him of playing politics with peoples lives. 

You heard that right. Tony Fauci, an embodiment of truth and integrity, who lives and breathes science, whose entire professional life is dedicated to eradicating emerging infectious diseases, is a politician who does not care that people are dying. Desiring to run him out of town, they now demand he stepped aside to allow an unfettered access to, and use of, Chloroquine. Now, the result of the bone headedness and ignorance is there for all to see.

Words do matter, they are are contagious. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. The words we speak can birth blessing or bring ruin. We all shall eat the fruits and bear the consequences of the words we speak. Unfortunately, misguided and unguarded commentary on social media has the potential to cause significant collateral damage and even fratricide. Other people always pay the penalty for the carelessness of our words with their health and their life.

So, to all those who have taken to social media to recklessly and irresponsibly promote Chloroquine as the cure for Coronavirus, these poisonings are on you. For every single death that results from Chloroquine poisoning from here on, your hands are stained with the blood of the innocent and the ignorant.

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