Even as India has stepped up efforts to check entry of Wuhan coronavirus, with multiple airports scanning passengers coming from China, and isolation facilities in place in multiple cities, there are a host of fliers promoting all kinds of 'cures' and precautions that are floating around in social media.
In the midst of these WhatsApp messages, comes a suggestion from the Ayush Ministry.
This advisory comes on the back of a WhatsApp forward that has been doing the rounds that specifies a homeopathy treatment for coronavirus.
Among a host of generic advice, the Ministry focuses on specific treatment from Homeopathy and Ayurveda.
The advisory specifies a medicine to be used as prophylactic:
The Group of Expertsinter-alia has recommended that homoeopathy medicine Arsenicum album30 could be taken as prophylactic medicine against Coronavirus infections, which has also been advised for prevention of ILI. It has recommended one doze of Arsenicum album 30, daily in empty stomach for three days. The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule incase Coronavirus infections prevail in the community.
- Immunomodulatory drugs as per the Ayurvedic practices.
- Measures shall be taken to strengthen the immune system through a healthy diet and lifestyle practices.
- Agastya Harityaki 5 gm, twice a day with warm water.
- Samshamani Vati 500 mg twice a day.
- Trikatu(Pippali, Marich & Shunthi) powder 5 gm and Tulasi 3-5 leaves (boiled in 1-litre water, until it reduces to ½ liter and keeps it in a bottle) keep taking it in sips as and when required.
- Pratimarsa Nasya: Instill two drops of Anu taila/Sesame oil in each nostril daily in the morning.
The advisory immediately drew a host of reactions.
Umm what? This is such blatant misinformation being spread by the government! Corona Virus is as new as today's sunrise and thousand year old "science" knew it's cure? Bother to call China and impart your knowledge to them na, @AyushmanNHA? @AltNews @boomlive_in can u pls check— Shruti Chaturvedi (@adhicutting) January 29, 2020
This advisory is actually 'ill-advised'. To claim preventive efficacy/symptomatic management without any kind of evidence when not a whole lot is known about the virus,& there is a chance of rumor-mongering and panic, reflects poorly on the AYUSH ministry https://t.co/IV9XzNf74D pic.twitter.com/Dje4CZjIPm— Anant Bhan (@AnantBhan) January 29, 2020
Do Homeopathy Prophylactics Work?
FIT reached out to Dr Kunal Banerjee, a leading homeopath in the capital.
"First we need to understand that this virus is new and each medical system is trying to fight it within its means. We have no data to prove that any medicine will help. In such a case, we can only estimate what will work."
Speaking about Arsenicum Album, that is specifically advised by the ministry, he justifies it by saying that during previous outbreaks of SARS and H1N1, even Mexican authorities had issued an advisory for this drug.
But when coronavirus is not present in India, is it right to issues such an advisory? Dr Banerjee says he would recommend it to those who are at high-risk - as in those who have just returned from China.
Why This Notice is 'Ill-Advised'
While the generic advice at the beginning of the note about 'washing hands, wearing N 95 masks etc' is common across medicines and just basic common sense, what makes it particularly controversial is combining that advisory with specific prophylactics from different systems of medicine.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. The death toll in China has crossed 100 and thousands are infected.
Most medical experts concur that coronavirus is new, still being studied, and while some studies have pointed to snakes being the original carriers, the source of the virus is still unknown.
Most allopathic doctors will also say straight away that viruses cannot be 'cured' via allopathy, there is no vaccine to protect against the Wuhan strain of coronavirus yet and all doctors can do is treat symptomatic symptoms.
Speaking with FIT, Dr Sumit Ray, a critical care specialist had this to say:
The generic advice regarding personal hygiene should be followed in any case and is essential. When it comes to the specific prophylactics mentioned, when these treatments were developed, there was very little knowledge of the kinds of viruses we have identified and see today. So would these prophylactics work against this strain?
He further adds, "as far as Immunomodulatory drugs are concerned, the science of these drugs have just been studied within the accepted research modalities that exist today. So do they help? We just don't have the evidence."
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