Indian doctors warn against using cow dung to cure COVID-19


Indian doctors have urged people not to cover themselves in cow dung and urine as a treatment for Covid, saying it risks spreading the disease faster.

Medics spoke out after it emerged that Hindus in western Gujarat state have been visiting cow shelters once a week to douse themselves in excrement, which is then washed off with milk.

They believe feces from a cow – a holy animal to Hindus – will boost their immune systems, helping to both prevent and cure Covid.

But Dr JA Jayalal, president of the Indian Medical Association, warned the ‘cure’ doesn’t work and may actually help to spread the virus as often-sick people gather in groups to undergo the treatment.

Some Indians have turned to unproven ‘cures’ for Covid as the virus runs rampant in the country and proven treatments – such as oxygen and vaccines – run in desperately short supply.

In one incident, at least 11 patients died at a hospital in the city of Tirupati overnight when the oxygen ran out because a vital delivery was late.

‘There were issues with oxygen pressure due to low availability. It all happened within a span of five minutes,’ said M Harinarayan, the district’s top bureaucrat said late on Monday, adding the hospital’s supplies had now been topped up.

Just a week ago, medics in rural parts of Maharashtra state warned that patients are being brought to them with marks from hot irons held against their skin by witch doctors in an attempt to drive the virus out.

Others are coming to shelters such as Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, a school run by Hindu monks near Ahmedabad, to undergo cow dung ‘therapy’.

The shelter is located just across the road from the headquarters of Zydus Cadila, which is developing its own COVID-19 vaccine.

Gautam Manilal Borisa, a manager at a pharmaceuticals company and frequent visitor, insisted to reporters that bathing in cow dung had cured him of Covid when he caught the virus last year.

‘We see … even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity and they can go and tend to patients with no fear,’ he said.

Believes mix both cow dung and urine – which has been used in Hindu rituals for centuries for its supposed therapeutic and antiseptic properties – and then cover their bodies in the mixture.

As participants wait for the dung and urine mixture on their bodies to dry, they hug or honour the cows at the shelter, and practice yoga to boost energy levels.

The packs are then washed off with milk or buttermilk.

‘There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,’ said Dr Jayalal as he urged people not to visit such centres.

‘There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products – other diseases can spread from the animal to humans.’

India’s coronavirus crisis showed scant sign of easing on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of new cases at a record high and international health authorities warning the country’s variant of the virus poses a global concern.

India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by 329,942, while deaths from the disease rose by 3,876, according to the health ministry. India’s total coronavirus infections are now at 22.99 million, while total fatalities rose to 249,992.

India leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every three deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters tally.

The seven-day average of new cases is at a record high of 390,995.

The World Health Organization said the coronavirus variant first identified in the country last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.

‘We are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level,’ Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, told a briefing in Geneva on Monday. ‘There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.’

Nations around the globe have sent oxygen cylinders and other medical gear to support India’s crisis, but many hospitals around the nation are struggling with a shortage of the life-saving equipment.

Sixteen faculty members and a number of retired teachers and employees who had been living on the campus of Aligarh Muslim University, one of India’s most prestigious, had died of coronavirus, the university said.

Adding to the strain on medical facilities, the Indian government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis or ‘black fungus’ in COVID-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection.

The disease, which can lead to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.

India’s second wave has increased calls for a nationwide lockdown and prompted a growing number of states to impose tougher restrictions, impacting businesses and the wider economy.

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