New York City sees increase in cases of people ingesting household cleaners after Trump's disinfectant gaffe

The Poison Control Centre in New York reported 30 cases related to exposure to Lysol, bleach other household cleaners. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK - New York City's Poison Control Centre saw a spike in the number of people ingesting household cleaners after United States President Donald Trump raised the possibility of using disinfectant inside people's bodies to fight the coronavirus.

The non-profit National Public Radio (NPR) reported that the centre registered 30 cases in an 18-hour period ending at 3pm on Friday (April 24), as opposed to only 13 cases for the same timeframe a year ago.

Nine of the cases were related to exposure to Lysol, 10 were "specifically about bleach" and 11 were exposures to other household cleaners, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman Pedro Frisneda told NPR.

At a news briefing on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported that the US leader stunned the world by saying doctors might treat people infected with the coronavirus by shining ultraviolet light inside their bodies, or with injections of household disinfectant.

"Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks (the virus) out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs," he said.

After a strong rebuff of his suggestion by top medical experts and disinfectant manufacturers, Mr Trump on Friday claimed he had been speaking "sarcastically".

"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen," he told journalists on Friday.

On Saturday, Mr Trump tweeted that his daily coronavirus briefings were not worth his time.

He appeared to confirm media reports that he was considering halting the briefings, which dominate early-evening cable television news for sometimes more than two hours, out of frustration with questions about his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately," Mr Trump wrote.

NPR also reported that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has registered an increase in calls of people exposing or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants.

According to a CDC report posted online this week, the cases of exposures to disinfectants and cleaners have increased by 20 per cent between January and March this year, as opposed to the same period last year.

The report said the uptick in calls began in early March although it warned that it could not prove a "definite link between exposures and Covid-19 cleaning efforts".

"Although a casual association cannot be demonstrated, the timing of these reported exposures corresponded to increased media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfection products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders," the report added.

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