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Utah's poison control hotline helps with COVID-19 info and sees a spike in disinfectant calls

Poison Control worker
Posted at 11:13 AM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 13:13:43-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — Utah's Poison Control Center has been drafted to help staff the state's COVID-19 hotline, answering thousands of anxious people's questions about the deadly virus.

In an interview with FOX 13, Utah Poison Control Center director Amber Johnson said to date, the coronavirus hotline has taken more than 60,000 calls since it was set up on March 3. They answer questions about symptoms of COVID-19 and transmission. The information is given in numerous languages and people are referred to the proper health authorities.

"Like everyone else with this being a new virus, we’re learning as well and so there’s always questions each day we do more research on and work with public health partners to give our callers the best answer," Johnson said.

With most of the calls being so similar, the center has contributed to an FAQ on the state's coronavirus website.

The busiest day for the hotline was when it was announced Utah Jazz players had tested positive for COVID-19. Johnson said the hotline recorded over 4,000 calls. In the Poison Control Center, 18 workers were taking calls.

Typically, the hotline records 400 to 700 calls a day. That's in addition to the Poison Control Center's regular duties, which is dealing largely with potential poison exposure.

Lately, Johnson said, the center is dealing with a spike in calls related to disinfectant exposure.

"We’ve seen an increase in our exposures to cleaning products, particularly with kids getting into cleaning products. Compared to this time last year, we’ve seen about an 80% increase in our disinfectant exposures, as well as about a 50% increase in our hand sanitizer exposures," she told FOX 13. "Other sort-of overall types of cleaners we’ve seen about a 12% increase. Most of those are just because the products available, people are cleaning more often, so it’s a lot easier for kids to get into those products."

Johnson said the poison control hotline did not see a noticeable increase in chemical exposures after President Trump suggested people inject disinfectants as a way to combat COVID-19 (something health experts say you should not do).