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Entertainment & Arts

Rita Wilson took chloroquine to fight COVID-19 and didn’t like what it did to her

Rita Wilson
Rita Wilson says the chloroquine she was given to fight COVID-19 came with bad side effects.
(Gregg DeGuire / Getty Images)

Rita Wilson doesn’t know if chloroquine helped her in her COVID-19 fight. She only knows how it made her feel on her road to recovery.

In short? Not good.

“I don’t know if the drug worked or if it was just time for the fever to break,” Wilson said Tuesday, noting the “extreme side effects” she experienced.

Wilson, who came down with COVID-19 while in Australia with husband Tom Hanks, told “CBS This Morning" that the medication left her “completely nauseous” and suffering from vertigo. She was given the drug about Day 9 of her illness, she said.

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“I could not walk and my muscles felt very weak,” the newly minted “Hip Hop Hooray” rapper continued. “I think people have to be very considerate about that drug. We don’t really know if it’s helpful in this case.”

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Rita Wilson talks COVID-19 and the coronavirus on “CBS This Morning.”

By video, the actress-singer told CBS’ Gayle King that her fever had gone up to nearly 102 degrees, and she realized in hindsight that her senses of taste and smell had been on their way out. Wilson’s initial body aches ushered in a fever with chills like she’d “never had before.”

Hanks, meanwhile, had a less severe case than she did, but still took the same length of time to recover. They’re both back in Los Angeles, and Hanks hosted “Saturday Night Live” from home over the weekend.

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The couple still aren’t sure where they picked up the bug, Wilson said. They had gone to Australia so Hanks could work on a movie.

Hanks and Wilson were told they were both exposed to the coronavirus at the same time, she said. “We don’t know when that could have been or where.” However, she added, nobody in their family or on their close work team has tested positive.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are typically used against malaria and lupus, have gotten a lot of hype in recent weeks after a review said it seemed they could limit replication of the coronavirus in laboratory dishes, and President Trump said he felt good about their effectiveness. “That’s all it is, just a feeling,” Trump said in mid-March.

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However, dangerous side effects of the drugs can include an erratic heartbeat that can lead to sudden death among people who have a congenital cardiac condition or take common antidepressants, antipsychotics or certain antibiotics that lengthen the time it takes for the heart to recharge between beats.

The drugs can also lead to hemolytic anemia among people with a common genetic condition that prompts red blood cells to break down faster than they can be made. That can lead to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and, in severe cases, kidney failure and death.

Previous studies of the drugs’ usefulness against the dengue and chikungunya viruses in humans didn’t pan out. The safety and effectiveness of chloroquine and hydroxichloroquine are now being tested against COVID-19, as are other medications.

Treating patients with “moderate” COVID-19 is a way to stop the disease from progressing to a severe stage that would require mechanical ventilation.
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Wilson and Hanks, meanwhile, are participating in a study to see if their newly acquired antibodies might be of use in the fight against COVID-19, and also are waiting to see if they can donate plasma to help those who have the disease.

And on a lighter note, Wilson and the hip-hop group Naughty by Nature have gotten together — figuratively speaking — on a remix of “Hip Hop Hooray,” which she recently rapped on Instagram as a “brain exercise” while she was riding out her quarantine in Australia.

Before filming the 2019 movie “Boy Genius,” Wilson said, she spent a month learning the song that her character would knock out. This time around, she just wanted to know if she could remember the lyrics.

Naughty by Nature’s Vin Rock caught Wilson’s rendition after it went viral.

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“All I recall is working my social media late at night, and someone inboxed me and said, ‘Hey, Vin, have you seen this?’” Rock told NPR on Sunday. “And I went to the page and I saw Rita just spitting the lyrics, and she was killing it!”

“Most of our fans were like, ‘We don’t even know the lyrics like that,’” he said.

Proceeds from the remix will go directly to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.


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