In a rush to find a cure for dengue, people in the Capital are turning to home remedies, despite their efficacy being unproven
Alok was informed that his friend is in the grip of dengue and requires goat’s milk as his platelet count is going down. He, without delay rushed to a jhuggi area near Vasant Kunj enquiring about availability of goat’s milk. But to his dismay, he found nothing — most of the people said that the milk had been sold out, asking him to go to some other place.
Finally, someone directed him to Pahalwan Ji, who runs a mutton shop beside a small mosque near the Vasant Vihar area. Here he got the milk for his patient without any charge. Pahalwan Ji aka Maqsood Ali gives goat’s milk free of cost, but there’s a catch. Earlier he had 10 goats, and the other day someone stole his nine goats. So Ali told Alok, “come back before 7 am tomorrow, otherwise I have to give it to somebody else in need.”
Next day, Alok arrived late. Ali informed him that he did not have any milk left, please go to R K Puram, you might find it there. His quest for goat’s milk went on till 11 AM, finally he found a seller near Nizamuddin whose name was Bhagmati. She told him that she will give him 200 gram for Rs 250. He had no option because his friend was waiting, so he paid. Later in the evening he found another seller near IIT Delhi, who delivered milk to the hospital itself for Rs 1200 per liter.
Delhi is facing one of the worst dengue outbreaks in the last few years. Delhi recorded 1,171 dengue cases from November 1-6, after reporting 1,196 in October and 217 in September. This resulted in a crisis, setting the stage for the breeding of a lot of misconceptions around cures, like it did when Covid outbreak was wreaking havoc. The most common being that goat’s milk helps in curing dengue.
Sunita, a woman from Nat community, lives in a jhuggi near Vasant Kunj, she has one goat that produces around 300 ml of milk. And now people are coming to her for ‘the cure for dengue’. Therefore instead of using it for herself she is selling it. “I have been earning Rs 300- 400 every day for the last two weeks.” She now buys milk for her family from a nearby Mother Dairy store.
“We didn’t expect that the demand for this milk would go this high.” she said.
High demand was the main reason behind the theft of Ali’s goats, “There is no CCTV camera but someone told us that around midnight a white jeep drove around the locality and stole our goats.” He believes that the dengue outbreak is the reason for that. “We have filed a police complaint. I think, demand for goat’s milk, which is being sold at exorbitant prices, is the main reason behind it.”
Ali explains the use of goat milk as per the popular belief, “Goats milk is said to be good for dengue patients. It is advised to drink it raw, without boiling it” he said.
However, doctors believe that there is no conclusive evidence that it helps. Alok told us that the doctors advised against giving goat’s milk when she was informed about it. “Family of my friend was worried about the dipping of his platelets so they thought goat’s milk would help in it so they bought it. Doctor said, “You can give goat’s milk but it is as good as cow’s milk.”
Other popular misconceptions suggest the use of aloe vera, papaya leaves as well as goat’s milk, and people use them to cure dengue. A team of doctors from the medicine department at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 2015 said there is no proper evidence that these remedies help.
“If the intake of these increased platelets in two or three people, that doesn’t establish their efficacy in the cure of dengue. There has to be a proper controlled trial on their efficacy in the treatment of dengue,” Dr SK Sharma, professor in the medicine department at AIIMS told IANS.
People’s quest for treatment gives way to stocking and overpricing of things. But this is helping some of the fruit sellers. A fruit seller near Safdarjung hospital, who asked to remain unnamed, told us, “I am trying to stock coconuts, as people are buying them here a lot because of the dengue outbreak. There isn’t overpricing in coconut water, it costs between 40- 70 rs, based on demand. But since enough supply is there, overpricing is currently not happening.”
Cover: Haji Abdul Sattar giving goat milk to dengue patients free-of-cost at Bada Hindu Rao Road, 2015. Goat’s milk is currently selling for prices between Rs 1200-1500 as people believe it to be a cure for dengue PHOTO: Getty Images)