West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since then, it has spread, according to 2005 statistics, to more than 44 US states.
Most horse owners are not aware that if a healthy horse should become infected, that horse can successfully be treated for WNV with homeopathic remedies given orally over a course of 3 to 4 days, at a cost of around $50 to $100. Of healthy horses infected, 2 out of every 3 who were not vaccinated and who received no treatment, have survived -- and with no residual effects.
How It Spreads
Only birds (top 4 species affected by WNV are American crows, western scrub-jays, yellow-billed magpies and Steller's jays) are known to transmit WNV. Mosquitoes spread the disease, by biting an infected bird, then biting horses, humans, and other mammals. Horses and humans are considered to be dead-end hosts, and cannot transmit the virus or contribute to the transmission cycle. The virus is not directly contagious from horse to horse, horse to human, human to horse, or human to human.
The incubation period for WNV in horses appears to be 3 to 15 days. The horses who die are usually horses whose health and condition were poor to begin with, who were under-nourished, very old or very young and whose immune systems were compromised prior to exposure to WNV.
Clinical Signs of West Nile Virus in Horses
The clinical signs associated with WNV infection can vary from horse to horse, and may mimic many neurological disorders in varying degrees. These include: rabies, EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis), equine herpesvirus-1, botulism; Eastern, Western and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE, VEE); heat stress, trauma; bacterial meningitis, Wobbler Syndrome, and equine degenerative myelopathy.
Some of the symptoms may include:
Fever, but not in all cases
Stumbling or incoordination
Weakness of limbs
Tremors and difficulty rising or inability to rise
Blindness or blindness-like symptoms
Healthy horses may become infected without showing any clinical signs. Fever is not a common sign but may be present. Drooling from the mouth or runny nose has also been seen. The key is to keep a watchful eye on your horses and note any unusual behavior. The course of this infection, if treated with homeopathic remedies, is usually 3-4 days, and requires giving the homeopathic remedies numerous times until there is a lessening of the symptoms.
Protecting Your Animals Nutritionally
It is important to take preventive actions early, prior to the time of the year when mosquitoes are likely to bite and infect horses in your area. Make sure your horse is receiving adequate nutrition to keep him healthy. Boosting your horse's immune system with the appropriate supplements including Vitamin C, Equine Missing Link, Beta Glucan 1,3 1,6 and Colostrum is also very helpful and appropriate. The combination of the Beta Glucan and Colostrum is one of the most powerful immune boosting supplements you can provide for your horse, and a 20 gram scoop per day can be inexpensive, and health/immune enhancing.
Adding garlic and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (preferably organic) to their feed will assist in naturally repelling mosquitoes (and flies), as will using a natural citronella/lanolin based insect repellant.
To Vaccinate or Not Vaccinate
In November 2002, a vaccine intended to aid in the prevention of WNV in horses was licensed by the Veterinary Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This is a killed vaccine product, and its use was originally restricted to licensed veterinarians, but is now available at feed stores in California and elsewhere for consumer use. There have been reports of side effects including pregnant mares aborting foals, numerous still births, foal deformities; mares who have trouble conceiving after vaccination, and stallions with infertility issues. A committee has been formed by the American Association of Equine Practitioners to review the reports of the health-related problems that have occurred in numerous horses regarding this vaccine.
If you choose to vaccinate, for your horses to be protected by vaccination, they should receive the second of two initial doses of the currently licensed vaccine at least 2 weeks before mosquitoes are likely to start biting and infect them.
Many veterinarians in Southern states where mosquitoes are active year-round prefer to vaccinate horses semiannually or more frequently to help ensure uniform protection throughout the year, although this practice is not specifically recommended by manufacturers of vaccines.
If you choose not to vaccinate, your horse should be on supplemental Beta Glucan, Colostrum, Missing Link and an assortment of immune boosting herbs, including Garlic, as well as a monthly homeopathic Nosode specifically for West Nile. The Nosode is in a dose of 15 sugar pills about the size of a pencil tip and they can be dissolved and syringed into the mouth or the tiny pellets can be put directly on the gum. The cost to immunize with a WNV Nosode is generally less than the price to vaccinate.
Be a Proactive Informed Consumer
Don't just vaccinate because the media are playing up the threat of West Nile, and the vet pharmaceuticals are heavily advertising their vaccines. Question all statistics, particularly those attributing equine deaths to WNV. Call your local health departments, veterinary colleges or veterinary hospitals. Voluntary euthanasia does not mean the horse died of the disease; the euthanasia occurred because many vets are telling people there is no cure, therefore giving horse owners little hope. Uninformed consumers are needlessly putting down animals that could overcome the virus with a little extra care, homeopathic remedies, and a better immune system from better nutritional practices.
Be realistic, and weigh the evidence as well as the area in which you live to determine the risk factors. A horse with a healthy immune system and proper nutrition can naturally fight off a virus such as West Nile and would not have any noticeable symptoms. Talk to your vet and re-evaluate your feeding practices and supplement program to make sure your horse is healthier and has a good immune system.
What is a Nosode?
Nosodes are homeopathic "immunizations" as opposed to "vaccinations." They are made the very same way as a homeopathic remedy, by dilution, and succussion, except they are made from the "discharges" when an organism (animal or human) gets sick. For example, a distemper Nosode is made from the nasal discharge from an infected dog, a Parvo Nosode is made from the diarrhea of an infected animal, and the EPM Nosode is made from the spinal cord of an EPM positive horse.
Using a homeopathic West Nile Nosode in place of vaccines has been shown to prevent the disease, as it "immunizes" your horses safely (as opposed to chemically "vaccinating" them). One source for the West Nile Nosode is through www.holisticvetclinic.net . The directions for usage of the Nosode are simple and it is very cost effective, as a 1 dram bottle will treat 3 horses for one year at a cost of $20.00.
I do not know of any allopathic treatment available for WNV, once a horse becomes infected; however, there are homeopathic remedies that do treat WNV effectively with no side effects.
Reduce Mosquito Breeding Sites -- You can decrease the chance of your animals being exposed to the West Nile virus by limiting their exposure to mosquitoes. The best way to do this is to reduce mosquito-breeding sites. Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts more than 4 days. The best way to reduce your risk is to remove any potential sources of standing water in which breeding can take place.
- Dispose of water-holding containers such as old tires.
- Drill holes in the bottom of containers that are left outside.
- Thoroughly clean watering troughs, bird baths, etc., every few days.
- Clean clogged roof gutters every year.
- Turn over wading pools or wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Aerate ornamental pools.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not in use and do not let water collect on pool vers.
- Use landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water can collect.
Preventive management practices also include keeping horses in the barn from dusk to dawn (prime mosquito feeding times), setting out mosquito traps, keeping air moving with fans, and removing organic debris (muck) promptly. Chemical controls may include the use of topical anti-mosquito repellent or fly sprays.
Jessica Lynn is the owner of Earth Song Ranch, LLC, a licensed natural feed supplement business that specializes in designing, manufacturing and distributing equine, canine and feline nutritional supplements. Earth Song Ranch also offers wild crafted and organic herbs and herbal blends, Nosodes, homeopathic remedies, and educational articles. Jessica has been involved in holistic and alternative health for humans and animals for well over 4 decades, including homeopathy, osteopathy, herbs, acupuncture and Chinese medicine. For more information visit www.earthsongranch.com or contact Jessica Lynn, Earth Song Ranch, PO Box 2616, San Marcos, CA 92079-2616, e-mail Jessica@earthsongranch.com
SIDEBAR: Homeopathic preparations of aconite and sulfur can be used to combat the fever and help detox the body. Remember to treat the similimum (symptomatic picture you are seeing).
--Dr. Ed Sheaffer, Palmyra, PA