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Poison and Drug Information Center helps field public calls about COVID-19

Posted at 4:41 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 20:18:51-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A hot line is up and running in Tucson for coronavirus questions.

Amid a public health scare, hundreds and thousand of calls flood public health departments. Here in Arizona, the Poison and Drug Information Center helps by taking some of those calls. In the past it had a huge roll in the state during the Zika crisis.

Located in UArizona's Drachman Hall is one of the state's two poison information centers. This center helps field calls for all county's in Arizona, aside from Maricopa.

"Everyone is just trying to get information, things are so rapidly changing, and that's sort of our role is to sort of fight back on the hysteria and the panic and try to provide some factual information and give people guidance on what the proper things to do are," said Steven Dudley, Director, Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

Dudley said the center takes over the public calls for the local health departments.

The top questions asked: "What are the signs and symptoms? Do I meet the criteria to get tested or how do I get tested? And I traveled somewhere, what are the precautions I need to take?" said Dudley.

The volume of calls coming in about COVID-19 is so high, Dudley said, health departments can't handle that on their own. This center alone received more than 700 calls about coronavirus last week.

"We're also answering calls from providers of information of, 'I have this patient who I think should get tested and meet the criteria, what should I do?' and we will transfer them to the local health department so they can stay ready for those calls," said Dudley.

The center at UArizona is staffed by pharmacists who are specially trained and certified in poison information. Pharmacy interns and physicians are also on staff to answer your calls and concerns.

"For those who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive, we're hear to give them guidance based of if they're symptomatic or not, of what their next steps should be," said Dudley.

You can call your local health department for questions about COVID-19, or you can call the state toll free number (844) 542-8201. But again, because the poison center is helping with calls, don't be alarmed or confused if they are the ones that answer.