Scientists and doctors are burning the midnight oil to find a sure-shot procedure to tame the novel coronavirus but the digital world is abuzz with conspiracy theories, tips to prevent the deadly infection, and alternative medicine prescriptions that include Unani, Ayurveda and Homeopathy cures.
Leading the pack are bogus forwards from the ‘WhatsApp university’ that claim government sanction for a set of preventive measures prescribed by them including an illogical advice to keep sipping water as ‘dry throat’ will let the infection in without resistance. Some other unsolicited advice includes ‘washing hands frequently’ and ‘not eating ice-creams’ – most of which are dismissed by doctors who feel these steps are of no consequence.
Not all free advice from the so-called experts are useless. Some messages recommend use of masks. And, of course, you are warned not to travel to China or its neighbourhood.
Other types of harmless, but impractical, advice include ‘avoiding crowded places for three months’ and ‘saline gargles’ to protect the system.
The more interesting ones prescribe drinking ‘rasam,’ the South-Indian favourite full of spicy ingredients as a preventive. Then there are statements blaming it on the consumption of non-vegetarian food and alleging that Chinese invited trouble by devouring snakes, rats, insects and wild animals. Many self-appointed ‘experts’ also advise keeping off non-vegetarian food for at least a couple of months.
While most of these advisories are anonymous, the most surprising is from the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, also known as Ayush.
Apart from general advice like maintaining personal hygiene, the AYUSH advisory has detailed prescriptions from Homeopathy, Unani and Ayurveda systems to tackle coronavirus.
“At the instance of the Ministry of AYUSH, the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) discussed ways and means to prevent coronavirus infection through Homoeopathy at the 64th meeting of its Scientific Advisory Board on January 28, 2020. The Group of Experts inter-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 (influenza-like illness). It has recommended one doze (sic) of Arsenicum album 30, daily in empty stomach for three days. The dose should be repeated after one month by following the same schedule in case coronavirus infections prevail in the community,” says the advisory.
Interestingly, an official statement has been issued by the government with the recommendations from Homeopathy, Ayurveda and Unani streams.
Thankfully, the advisory urges people to contact a hospital in case they fall sick with symptoms of coronavirus infection and avoid going to crowded places. Consumption of Sharbat Unnab (a medicine generally recommended as blood purifier by Unani practitioners) and message with ‘Roghan Baboona or Roghan Mom or Kafoori Balm’ on the scalp and chest are prescribed in the advisory as Unani remedies.
In the case of Ayurveda remedies, the advisory mentions ‘Trikatu’ and ‘Agastya Harityaki’ – mentioning even dosage and frequency. However, there is a disclaimer that the recommendations are for ‘information only and shall be adopted in consultation with registered Ayurveda practitioners only.’
The official advisory has come out even as doctors and experts in countries like the US and China have admitted that the new virus is tough to combat and there is no sure-shot procedure for cure even though most patients recover after multiple types of treatment and medication. Experience gained in treating those affected by similar virus-induced respiratory diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is now coming handy to combat novel coronavirus that is known by the technical name of 2019 n-CoV.
The general opinion so far is that the situation is not as alarming as it was apprehended earlier and the mortality rate may not be as high as feared.
However, conspiracy theorists are building up suspense by claiming that the coronavirus is nothing but a biological weapon developed secretly by China and it is now gone out of control. Quoting obviously dubious and fictional sources, they claim a secret lab for biological weapons was functioning under the Chinese army, trying to add credibility to their conspiracy theory.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in regular touch with the Chinese Government and is also coordinating global efforts to contain the epidemic.
Another development that is being closely watched has happened in Australia where the coronavirus has been recreated for the purpose of developing a vaccine. Recently, Chinese scientists had posted the genetic sequence of the virus to enable global researchers to study 2019 n-CoV without the risk of dealing with live virus samples.
Closer home, the Indian Government is emphasizing on preventive measures that include screening of all passengers returning from China and isolation of those with suspected coronavirus infection symptoms. The situation is being monitored at the PMO level, with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and top officials regularly reviewing the situation. State governments are also on high alert and all samples from suspected patients have thankfully tested negative till now.