Ron Johnson Insists Mouthwash Can Kill Coronavirus. A Mouthwash Company Disagrees

Republican opposition to the two most sensible and ways to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, vaccines and masks, has led lawmakers to recommend a variety of quack treatments for the disease that has killed nearly a million Americans. There’s ivermectin. There’s hydroxychloroquine. There’s, as Trump floated last spring, injecting oneself with bleach or bringing a very powerful “light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has been at the forefront of prescribing bogus Covid cures, so much so that YouTube suspended his account in June for pushing Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, neither of which are proven treatments. Johnson was undeterred, though, and at a town hall on Wednesday he suggested a new remedy, one that could have saved countless lives if the medical community had been aware of it last spring.

“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” he said.

Johnson quote-tweeted the audio clip with a link to a study showing that mouthwash does a “modest” job a lowering the viral load in saliva. It does not, of course, have any bearing on the inhalation of the disease, which is how most people are infected.

The Washington Post spoke to a few experts who debunked the idea that mouthwash can prevent or treat Covid in any meaningful way. Raymond Niaura, the interim chair of the epidemiology department at New York University, suggested using it in tandem with the vaccine. “That way, one would be at reduced risk for infection and have good smelling breath,” he wrote.

Listerine has also done what it can to tamp down speculation that mouthwash is a Covid cure. The company’s website has an entire page dedicated to explaining that “the current available data is not sufficient to support a conclusion that the use of LISTERINE mouthwash is helpful against the COVID-19 virus,” adding that Listerine is “a company firmly rooted in science.”

Listerine likely feels the need to go out of its way to implore people not to use mouthwash to treat an infectious disease because when ostensibly reputable quacks like Johnson say things like he did on Wednesday, people stand to take it seriously and abuse the product. It’s probably not a good idea to ingest large quantities of Listerine, but it probably isn’t going to send you to the hospital. The same isn’t true of other miracle cures that have been carelessly pushed by Republicans. Several people were hospitalized after poisoning themselves with Ivermectin earlier this year. Trump spouting off about hydroxychloroquine last year came as one man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, thinking it would protect him against the disease.

It should go without saying that Trump, Johnson, and other Republican lawmakers are conspiracy theorists, not doctors, and their advice for how to treat Covid is no more reputable than what people are pushing on Facebook. In fact, that’s probably where they’re getting it. They’re conveniently able to escape any accountability for the health of their constituents by noting that, despite giving out medical advice and knowing full well it’s going to be heeded, they’re not medical professionals.

“I’m just here to present ideas,” Trump said last spring in suggesting disinfectant or infusing the body with a tremendous light.

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