As India continues to face a catastrophic wave of COVID-19, doctors have warned against using cow dung as a cure or preventative treatment against the virus.
Leading doctors in India have come out to warn people against the practice after people in the state of Gujarat were reportedly visiting cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine, hoping it will boost their immune system to fight COVID-19.
Cows are considered sacred animals in Hinduism, the predominant religion in India, and have long held an important place in Indian culture. In some parts of rural India, cow dung is widely used as a fuel source for fires and a fertilizer. It’s also occasionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and some folk medicine traditions with its proponents claiming they possess anti-bacterial and antifungal properties, purportedly making them an effective treatment for many diseases. However, there is no scientific evidence it can prevent serious diseases, not least COVID-19.
“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 JA Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association, per Reuters.
"There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products - other diseases can spread from the animal to humans."
Meanwhile in the US, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has asked travelers to not place cow dung in their baggage after discovering two balls of cow dung in a lost suitcase at the airport. The mysterious package was discovered on April 4 in a suitcase left behind at Washington Dulles International Airport by a passenger from an Air India flight. The main concern here is disease, namely Foot and Mouth Disease that can spread through feces and can have devastating impacts on livestock.
Back in India, their devastating COVID-19 crisis is showing little sign of coming to a close. As of May 4, over 20.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, with a rolling average of 378 000 cases a day and a total of at least 222 000 deaths. However, all of these figures are thought to be drastically underestimated. The sudden spike of cases in recent weeks has seen India run out of medical oxygen, hospital beds, and the capacity of cremation sites.
"It is devastating... people in India are dying from COVID-19 because they’re not getting the hospital care, medicine, or oxygen support they need to fight the disease. The shortfalls continue even after death: people wait hours in line to cremate or bury their loved ones," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview published this week.
"We are particularly worried about rural areas. The fear is that people participating in recent election rallies, religious festivals, and other big gatherings will head home to rural areas and bring the virus back with them. If that happens in the villages, it could be disastrous. The health infrastructure in rural India is poorly equipped to handle this deadly spread of COVID-19 unless the government acts immediately by providing the necessary resources and medical supplies," she explained.