Feature Article


An Alternative Treatment for West Nile Virus

West Nile mania

By SuZi

Recently, a friend of a friend told me he had "lost the most beautiful filly to West Nile". The filly had been a thoroughbred race prospect and Dave was bitterly frustrated about vaccinations, about the spread of the disease, and the devastation it is causing. As a resident of central Florida, a former horse farm employee, and currently the adoring owner of an unpapered Cracker mare, I have paid particular attention to media coverage of the West Nile Virus - how it has spread to Chicago, how the advent of the disease has overshadowed concerns for bio-sanity; now the local news is showing pesticide-spraying planes and warning the viewing public not to shoot down the planes under the mistaken suspicion of terrorist scheming. And I recall particularly clearly the radio advertisements last winter for the vaccination available through "your local veterinarian".

Yet, the vaccine fills me with a greater terror than that of the virus itself. When the farm upon which I board my mare informed me last winter they had planned to vaccinate the entire farm - some thirty horses - I was filled with a violent ambivalence. The vaccine is, of course, a potent drop of the disease. I couldn't imagine subjecting the light of my life to something so nasty. Call me what you will, but I have learned through very hard experience that when my intuition tells me something is icky to not take someone else's word that it ain't. I am sure other horse owners have been faced with this same agonizing decision.

However, I am blessed and I want to share this blessing with you: my mare (and my dog - we have a county rabies mandate) has been a patient of Dr. Gerald Wessner, VMD for a number of years now. When she needed a rabies certificate for the farm, Dr. Wessner came out and homeopathically administered the appropriate substance and supplied me with the required document. When the farm informed me they were intending to vaccinate the equine population for West Nile Virus, I called Dr. Wessner. It turned out he had a nosode. It was administered to my mare last autumn, or early last winter. The others were given the WNV vaccine. Since that time, I have seen some of the other horses on the farm develop seemingly unrelated (to West Nile) problems such as founder, colic and a navicular-like tendon problem. I cannot attribute these problems to the vaccine. I am not a vet or a virologist; I am merely a generally suspicious person.

There isn't any doubt in my mind that the West Nile problem is dangerous, devastating and deadly to our equine (and avian, as well as human) population. The death of Dave's filly only confirms the heartbreaking potential of the disease. Traditional - which is to say western or modern or what-most-vets-would-do - treatment is, according to Dr. Hilary Robinson of Lakeland, Florida, "generally supportive - since it's a virus... [treatment] is to limit inflammation in the nerves, usually with IV treatment of fluids: DMSO, banamine and steroids." She explained that she had treated a couple of horses and found the age of the horse to be a noticeable factor in recovery, since, "I haven't seen anything where any breed is prone." Dr. Robinson also commented on the fast progress of the disease, but was in favor of vaccination: " There's always risk with vaccination. To me, it's devastating to see a horse develop the disease."

Dr. Wessner, on the other hand, is not in favor of vaccination. In an interview conducted at his clinic, the Holistic Veterinary Clinic located in Summerfield, Florida on the 17th of September, 2002, Dr. Wessner said, "We have to be aware that every time we put a vaccine in an animal, we are putting in an artificial disease; and when we put it in a five- or seven-way injection, we are paralyzing the immune system." I was shocked that someone would vaccinate for West Nile and simultaneously vaccinate for other illnesses, but Dr. Robinson confirmed this, as well as confirming the typical adverse reactions at injection sites. Dr. Wessner further commented, "It's ludicrous; we're not letting the immune system do it's job; we paralyze with the vaccines."

Lest you be dubious of Dr. Wessner's credentials, he holds his VMD from the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with that degree in 1965. He says he practiced as a track vet for ten or fifteen years, but was "...always looking for better ways to do things." Dr. Wessner began studying acupuncture because, "In 1976, I learned of a cold laser to heal tendons, but had to learn acupuncture to use it properly. It was a boon to my practice because I learned to diagnose and treat in a different fashion."

Interestingly, in my conversation with Dr. Robinson conducted after my interview with Dr Wessner, Hilary said she is currently taking acupuncture classes - from Dr. Shen Xie at the University of Florida Large Animal Hospital in Gainesville (he has also worked on my mare and was the subject of glowing words from us both) - and she confirmed the diagnostic benefits of acupuncture, a treatment and diagnostic method slowly gaining grudging acknowledgment from most "regular" vets.

"Regular vets" do not have an encouraging record regarding the treatment of West Nile Virus. According to Dr. Wessner, about 20 to 45 percent of the afflicted horses die of West Nile Virus under current treatment methods, but he feels "happy we could come up with this (alternative) treatment [nosodes]. I've had cases where the animals have been stabilized. One was a paint mare of 20 years in age. The owner says the horse is improving everyday. It is possible to stabilize the case in two days. We can then bring them back to 100 percent function in a month."

While Dr. Wessner prefers to practice in central Florida, he conducts an extensive phone consultation service and says, "We do mail out all over the country and not just for West Nile. I've consulted several people in Canada and all over the United States; I even spoke to someone in Austria. One vet from Kansas called me about the raptors [carnivorous birds]. I believe the nosode will help the raptors. There are a few reports of dogs dying [from West Nile], but nowhere near in proportion ... people, horses and birds are the three main dead-end hosts of the disease."

But what if you've already vaccinated or what if your horse (perish the thought) is stricken?

Dr. Wessner says of his West Nile protocol, "We have to keep the banamine away from them. The banamine really prevents the homeopathy [from working]. If the horse had banamine, we have to alternate (homeopathic treatments) every 12 minutes for six hours; then, the temperature drops." Dr. Wessner further delineated his treatment protocol, though I would caution people to consult with him regarding substances, procedures, dosages and dosage timing. For some of the cases Dr. Wessner described an alternation between the West Nile nosode and Aconite 1M strength until fever passes, followed by Arsenicum 1M for five or six hours, saying, "Then we get ahead of the disease." He further commented that treatment involved one of the remedies he uses for EPM saying, "We had to learn to use [certain] doses to overcome the disease." Once again, I caution people to consult Dr. Wessner on treatment.

Dr. Wessner is also "very familiar with EPM". He further states, "I use the acupuncture point diagnosis and there are specific points which will indicate infection with the EPM parasite. After (it gets in) the spinal cord, the points light up, they are so inflamed and painful. I've had a horse kick out. I use a form of kinesiology; then I use a nosode from the spinal fluid of an EPM positive horse. A third test is I give the EPM nosode to see if it clears all the points. In one experiment, we gave the nosode and found in ten minutes we had 50 percent of the pain cleared. The acupuncture points were given to us by Dr. Martin Cain, which I believe are 95 percent accurate; compare that with the blood test (spinal western blot test) which is 70 percent accurate."

Dr. Wessner's practice encompasses large and small animals and his diagnostic and treatment method includes homeopathy, acupuncture and herbology in addition to hair analysis. "I use hair analysis to determine the levels of the major metals and minerals and to determine if there's toxicity from lead, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, mercury and aluminum. It's interesting that all our clay soils are high in aluminum and acid rain liberates the aluminum; so if you're feeding hay and grain and it's in the feed, the horse can't get away from it." Dr Wessner encourages soil analysis of pastures and even advocates filtration systems on watering devices; he counsels the avoidance of insecticides, pesticides and herbicides saying "there are ways to do that easily and a lot of times it's cheaper than using chemicals. For example, I have seven years as a holistic vet; we have very few cases of EPM, Lymes or West Nile in any of my clients who are worming with herbs or using homeopathics. Now this is across the board. This is even showing true for my small animal clients ... once we get away from the repeated use of chemicals and parasitics and stop treating the animals with steroids, antibiotics and cortisones. This is not to say I won't use an antibiotic; I will to save a life, but not until we've exhausted homeopathy and herbology and even colloidal silver, which is a natural immune stimulant."

Commenting on the perpetual cycle encouraged by pharmaceutical manufacturers to vaccinate horses for the West Nile Virus, Dr. Wessner says, "First you have problems with vaccine reactions at injection sites. Two, they want you to give it every three to four months. Three, the animals vaccinated are still getting it. Four, in addition to the other vaccines, it makes them susceptible to founder, itching, non-sweating, Cushings (thyroid problems) ... all of these will come out more often (with vaccination)."

So what is a horse owner to do? "Educate," affirms Dr. Wessner. "We have to realize that modern living and modern medicine is causing a lot of the problems we're seeing in horses, cats and dogs. We have to educate ourselves to eliminate the sources, which includes vaccines. We have to eliminate parasite control. We have to be cognizant of the fact that our water has been polluted for the last hundred years and we have to use filters not only for our houses and the animals there, but for our pasture animals."

Perhaps Dr. Wessner is, as he says, "always on the cutting edge", if you consider the ancient discipline of acupuncture cutting edge; but the man makes sense: anyone who has witnessed - as I have - an old dog, after a "regular" vet advocating euthanasia, dramatically on the road to recovery with the use of homeopathy, will see the applicability of homeopathy where other means fall short. Anyone who had heard the adage, "you are what you eat", might, if grudgingly, admit to the good sense in proper nutrition and the role nutrition plays in health, immunity, and healing. And Dr. Wessner practices these therapies and programs. What is both suspicious and heartbreaking is that a filly died, and more have probably died since then...

About the author:
SuZi is a writer, artist and educator. Her little red mare is the light of her life. She lives with a rabbit, a dog, two cats, a turtle and a couple fish. She can be contacted at cmynes@aol.com.

For more information:
The Holistic Veterinary Clinic and Dr Wessner are located at 14402 South Highway 475, Summerfield, Florida 34491. Clinic phone: 352-245-2025, fax: 352-245-3369 and web site at: www.holisticveterinary.com. Phone consultations are by appointment.