While many in the country struggle to avail healthcare services in the face of the second wave of COVID-19, others have turned to an alternative therapy of dubious efficacy — cow dung.
“There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,” Dr J. A. Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association told Reuters. “There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products – other diseases can spread from the animal to humans.”
“No concrete scientific evidence” is a diplomatic means of describing the idea that cow dung works as a treatment. For those who are in need of vital medical care — many of whom may simply no longer be able to breathe without hospital care — it is not just a lack of evidence, it is a false hope that could see them lose their lives.
The treatment course includes smearing cow dung on the body, a process that is believed to be cleansing. Similar processes have been documented in India since the beginning of the pandemic, with cow urine drinking parties being held some months ago.
Such treatment options are often sought by those whose situation is desperate enough that they have no alternative. These situations have become all too common as hospitals have run out of vital supplies such as medical oxygen. Desperation on the part of the hospitals has seen them launch public appeals over social media to suppliers and anyone in a situation where they may assist. Patients themselves have been placed into cruel situations as scammers have taken the desperate situation as an opportunity to make money. As Health Issues India recently reported
“Evidence is mounting that individuals are running scamming campaigns through social media, with black market numbers circulating online. These individuals promise to deliver items such as oxygen canisters and medications. When contacted, these individuals typically request payments upfront, and… once payment has been made all contact will cease.”
In addition to black market scams there have been numerous accounts of quack doctors flocking to those turned away by the hospitals. Of the most well known of these quack doctors is Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury who has made claims that medications are simply a scheme by the government and “Big Pharma” companies of “lining their pockets”. He has created camps in order to peddle his “dietary treatments” that “cure COVID-19”.
The cow dung has been promoted by many as a similar alternative to conventional COVID-19 treatment. The belief is based on the fact that the cow is a sacred animal within Hindu beliefs. As such, it is also believed that products derived from the cow, including both urine and faeces, have medicinal properties.
Health experts have offered scathing rebukes. Nandita Iyer, a doctor and author, tweeted “Cow dung or cow urine may be good as natural plant fertilisers, but definitely have no role in the prevention or treatment of Covid19. It’s ridiculous that this is having to be said, but every few weeks there’s someone promoting this shit.”