Recent news reports out of Mississippi suggest that up to 70 percent of calls made to poison control in that state have been from people who have taken a drug, Ivermectin, bought at a feed store, and meant to deworm livestock. The horse paste is flying off the shelves of feed stores, particularly in the South, because those experiencing COVID symptoms or using Ivermectin prophylactically have been unable to secure prescriptions from their doctors or pharmacists because the drug is not intended for COVID. Ivermectin is used in both humans and animals to treat parasitic roundworm infections, and there are many who believe that COVID-19 is a parasite.
There are now a number of Facebook groups, many of them public, devoted to the use of Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID, and over the last couple of days, I’ve tooled around in them thinking an article about these rubes might be good for a laugh.
It’s not funny. It’s sad and depressing and terrifying. There are a lot of anti-vax conspiracy theories in these groups, many people who still believe that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment against COVID-19, and hundreds who are avoiding the doctor once they are infected out of fear of the medical establishment. There are still more who do go to the doctor and, in the case of bad outcomes, blame the doctors for not prescribing medicines like Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, or in the case of good results, suggest that “frontline doctors” are somehow distinct from the rest of the medical community.
As you might imagine, there’s also a lot of scripture quoted, references to OAN and Newsmax, and a total rejection of the CDC, except when the statistics align with their beliefs (and this is true even of made-up statistics, which make up the largest percentage of references to the CDC). They believe that countries where COVID-19 infections are the lowest are the countries that treat the infections with Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. They also believe that COVID is a parasite that causes blood clots, and it’s the blood clots that kill you.
They believe this because that’s what they read on Facebook, and they read it on Facebook because Zuckerberg’s platform does not filter out insane and dangerous conspiracy theories. In fact, they allow them to flourish in public Faceboook groups where users struggling with COVID symptoms or recently diagnosed folks who are scared can come and discover these “miracle cures.” If they recover, they tell everyone it was thanks to Ivermectin and if they die, well, there’s no one to tell their story, except for the husbands and wives and sons who return after their infections to ask what the appropriate dosage of a horse medication is for them. The irony is that in these same Facebook groups, they frequently tout as a reason for not getting vaccinated that the odds of surviving a COVID-19 infection are 99 percent, and yet they still attribute their positive outcomes to bogus drugs.
The only precaution that Facebook takes is to add this message at the bottom of some posts, and as is obvious from these Facebook groups, the message is completely ignored.
I also can’t tell you how many posts I read in which people who use Ivermectin ask, “When will my husband get his eyesight back,” or, “how long until my vision stops being blurry?” Here’s a small sampling of the Facebook messages I saw.
I know they’re wrong, and I know it comes from a place of ignorance, but it’s not funny. This is the work of cable news and Facebook, which have brought us to a very dark place where people are so politically opposed to science that they are willing to blind themselves both literally and figuratively through the use of medication for horses. Facebook, meanwhile, claims to be fighting misinformation, but allows groups like these to flourish. We are doomed.