As the number of COVID-19 cases in India continue to soar, doctors in the country are now facing another new problem after members of the public were discovered to be applying cow dung all over their bodies as a mean to ward off COVID-19.
Doctors and scientists have warned against this belief, stating that there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading the highly contagious virus.
They also added that practicing alternative treatment for the coronavirus can result to a false sense of security and complicate health issues.
In a report by Reuters, Dr J.A. Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association said: “There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine works to boost immunity against COVID-19. It is based entirely on belief.”
“There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products – other diseases can spread from the animal to humans.”
In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been seen visiting cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine as they believe it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, COVID-19.
In Hinduism, the cow is viewed as a sacred symbol of life and the earth. For centuries, Hindus have used cow dung to clean their houses and for prayer rituals as they believe that it has therapeutic and antiseptic properties.
“We see… even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity and they can go and tend to patients with not fear,” said Gautham Manilal Borisa, an associate manager at a pharmaceuticals company, to Reuters.
Mr Borisa added that this practice has helped him recover from the disease last year.
He has also been seen frequently at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukal Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, a school run by Hindu monks. The school is located near the Indian headquarters of Zydus Cadila, an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company that is developing its own COVID-19 vaccine.
It was reported that while believers wait for the dung and urine mixture on their bodies to dry, they hug and honour the cows at the shelter, as well as practice yoga to improve their energy levels. Following that, they wash off the mixture with milk or buttermilk.
If that’s not all, another concern that has been raised with this practice is that the gathering of people in groups could also lead to spread of the virus.
As such, Madhucharan Das, who is in charge of a cow shelter in Ahmedabad, said that the shelter is limiting the number of participants.
India is currently experiencing the second wave of the deadly COVID-19, with 22.7 million cases and 246,116 deaths reported so far. The country takes the second spot for the highest number of cases recorded in the world, behind the United States.
However, experts believe that the number of cases in India could be five to 10 times higher, and the country’s healthcare system has reached its breaking point as it can’t keep up with the high number of patients load. Citizens have been struggling to find hospital beds, oxygen or medicines, leaving many to die for lack of treatment.