Rita Wilson was one of the first celebrities to reveal that she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but now, she’s opening up about the “extreme” side effects she experienced while taking the drug chloroquine during her illness.
Wilson’s husband Tom Hanks announced last month that he and his wife had tested positive for the virus. They recuperated while in Australia.
The couple has shared many updates with their fans as they recovered, and Wilson spoke to Gayle King on CBS This Morning on Tuesday to share more details about her recovery.
Wilson said she was “very tired, extremely achy, uncomfortable, didn’t want to be touched, and then the fever started” when she was sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“Chills like I’ve never had before. … Looking back, I also realized that I was losing my sense of taste and smell, which I didn’t realize it at the time,” she added.
She told King that her fever reached “close to 102” and that she had to take chloroquine, which has been used since the 1940s to prevent and treat malaria as well as to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It’s currently being used as a treatment for COVID-19, however its effectiveness has not yet been proven.
“About Day 9, they gave me chloroquine. And I know people have been talking about this drug, but I can only tell you that I don’t know if the drug worked or it was just time for the fever to break,” Wilson said.
Wilson went on to describe the side effects she says she experienced from chloroquine, which can include heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.
“But my fever did break. But the chloroquine had such extreme side effects. I was completely nauseous and I had vertigo. I could not walk, and my muscles felt very weak. … I think people have to be very considerate about that drug. We don’t really know if it’s helpful in this case,” Wilson explained.
Wilson said that her husband had “milder symptoms” than she did.
“He had milder symptoms. He didn’t have as high a fever. … He did not lose his sense of taste or smell. … But it still took us the same time to get through it,” Wilson told King.
Wilson said that they contracted the novel coronavirus from somebody they were both “exposed to at the same time.”
“It was somebody, they said, that Tom and I were both exposed to at the same time,” Wilson revealed. “We don’t know when that could’ve been or where. … But all I can say is all of our close contacts, family … on our work team, no one has tested positive.”
The 63-year-old actor said doctors have said she could be “immune” to the novel coronavirus now that she’s had it.
“Well, that’s what they told us and that’s what the belief is,” she said of possible immunity. “We recently have been part of a study where we’ve donated our blood, and we’re waiting to hear back if our antibodies will be helpful in developing a vaccine, but also if we are able to donate plasma that can be used as donation to other people who are suffering from the virus because we are immune.”
While quarantined in Australia, Wilson posted a video of herself rapping along to Naughty By Nature’s Hip Hop Hooray on Instagram.
“When you came out online with Naughty By Nature, Rita, while you’re still in recovery, that went viral just like that,” King told Wilson.
Wilson said she’s always loved Hip Hop Hooray and that it took her one month to learn all the lyrics.
“I had to go onto the urban slang dictionary to learn what certain things meant. And then I just — I was sitting there in quarantine. … And I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should do this for a brain exercise and see if I still remember the lyrics,'” Wilson said.
She said members of Naughty By Nature saw her video, and they decided to team up to remix the song to raise money for musicians affected by the pandemic.
“This was great because any time you stream it, that translates into money, and all of that money will go into the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund,” Wilson explained.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently approved the use of the chloroquine to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency order.
Chloroquine is prescribed for lupus as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It’s an important enough medication for these conditions to appear on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of essential medicines as a treatment for rheumatoid disorders.
Hydroxychloroquine, a derivative of chloroquine, is also used to treat some forms of malaria, and lately, it’s being explored as a possible treatment for COVID-19, but the research is relatively new.
Despite an endorsement from U.S. President Donald Trump, health bodies say there’s not actually much evidence so far that this drug helps patients with COVID-19.
A study of 30 patients in Shanghai found little difference between patients who had received hydroxychloroquine and those who hadn’t, although the study authors urged further research.
Two small French studies found a benefit for patients treated with both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, though these studies did not include a control group — something considered essential before drugs are approved for broad use in patients. The findings of these studies have also been the subject of much debate among researchers in the field, some of whom question the methodology.
The WHO and the Canadian Pharmacists Association have expressed concern that overblown statements about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 could reduce the supply for people who need it for other illnesses.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Leslie Young