Most veterinarians practicing in the United States have never seen a case of anthrax in animals. Until recently, the total number of cases reported annually has been very low. Now this dangerous disease may be a threat to both the human and animal population.
Anthrax is an acute febrile disease of virtually all warm-blooded animals, including man. It is caused by the bacterium named Bacillus anthracis, which is stored in long-living spores maintaining the disease on a farm for many years. The spores release bacteria into the host (patient) when the conditions are optimal. Most commonly, it manifests as a septicemia characterized principally by a rapidly fatal course. Anthrax occurs worldwide, irregularly distributed in districts where repeated outbreaks occur. In the USA, there are recognized areas of infection in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California; small areas exist in a number of other states. In endemic areas, neutral or alkaline calcareous soils serve as an incubator for the bacterial organisms. Here spores revert to the vegetative form (independently grow like plant roots) when environmental conditions are optimal.1
As a veterinary student I was taught that a human case of anthrax had occurred in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about 50 years ago. A farmer noticed that a cow was not looking well, so he quickly killed it and butchered it. The meat was frozen in the home freezer. The farmer became ill several days later with symptoms of the cutaneous form of the disease. Fortunately, a quick diagnosis led to proper therapy. After extensive history-taking, which included questioning of the entire family, the investigative team became suspicious of the carcass in the freezer. Samples of meat tested at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Clinical Pathology Laboratory were positive for anthrax spores and bacteria. The entire carcass had to be properly disposed of as any other biohazardous substance. The freezer and the entire premises were then properly cleaned and disinfected.
Anthrax would be more prevalent except that most farmers and livestock owners act responsibly in caring for sick animals and disposing of dead animals. It is not healthy for anyone to leave dead carcasses lie in the fields for the vultures! When an animal has been sick and then dies, the body should be immediately transported to a veterinary pathology laboratory, or to a rendering plant. Proper rendering and cooking is designed to destroy all infective bacteria including anthrax spores. Farmers giving care to suspected cases should wear protective masks, clothing, boots and gloves. If people are not properly protected, they should not contact the sick animal! When medications are being administered, they may be given in the drinking water.
From the Archives
Veterinary homeopaths in the past did not have access to any vaccine or antibiotics and they hit this illness head on with their various homeopathic medicines and nosodes (homeopathic remedies made from the secretions of a sick animal). Research into the old texts, many of which are out of print and only found in the archives of universities, have produced information which may be of value for today.
In the 1830s, veterinarian Doctor Wilhelm Lux was called to attend a flock of sheep that were dying of anthrax. This German scientist had previously experienced success using nosodes to prevent and treat other diseases in livestock.2 Dr. Lux prepared an alcoholic extract from the spleen of a sheep that had just died. Soon a number of physicians and veterinarians were employing this new homeopathic medicine for their patients who were suffering with serious illnesses. The lives of both sheep and their shepherds were being spared by his gift of ANTHRACINUMA.3
Signs and Symptoms
Anthrax can infect all domestic animals, especially cattle, sheep, goats, swine and less frequently horses and still less frequently dogs, especially in the months of June, July and August. The blood is altered, and there is a disposition to gangrene, especially in the spleen. Anthrax disease is characterized by acute septicemia so that no matter where it begins in the body, (mouth, tongue, stomach, lungs) it rapidly spreads throughout the body. It is only the skin form that gives grace because it spreads more slowly. Skin lesions consistently have a black center to a dark non-healing ulcer.4 It is the black center in the ulcer that gives the disease its name, for “anthrax” means coal in Latin.
Acute Anthrax (St. Anthony’s Fire)
Acute anthrax destroys animals in a few minutes, and never lasts beyond twenty-four hours. The precursory symptoms, such as cold feet and cold tips of ears, dragging of the hind quarters, vanishing of milk, are easily overlooked as long as the appetite is unaffected. All at once a trembling, hurried breathing, anxiety and restlessness, with stupefaction, set in. At the approach of death a bloody mucus flows from the mouth, nose or anus and, after tumbling down several times, death takes place with a rattling noise amid convulsions, especially in cattle, sheep, goats and swine.5 The above picture is typical when the anthrax bacteria are ingested by animals. Often the bacteria are contracted from old carcasses improperly buried in alkaline calcareous soils.
Chronic anthrax seldom lasts beyond a week, sometimes a little longer; it generally commences with debility, loss of appetite and vanishing of milk. ( This form is called chronic because the animals live longer than 24 hours.) After the disease has fully set in, the appetite is entirely lost; ears, nose and horns feel alternately hot and cold; over the whole body or only at the hind quarter a trembling is perceived, or a twitching of the skin; the back part of the body is drawn forward from time to time. The breathing is anxious, intermittent and sometimes accompanied with a short cough. The eyes fill with tears, and sometimes a bloody mucus flows from the mouth. The manure is scanty, hard and streaked with blood; afterward the discharges become less frequent and after that, various tumors break out on the neck, head, chest, the ribs and in the groin. In sheep and swine affected with the chronic form of anthrax, red streaks and spots appear which soon become blue and gangrenous, after which death takes place. Sometimes the tongue becomes covered with vesicles which become gangrenous, break and discharge an acrid ichor–a burning thin pus-like discharge from an ulcer–that first destroys the adjoining parts of the tongue which falls out in pieces, and the disease thence travels downward, destroying the tissues and organs of the body within a few days.6
Woolsorters’ disease is the disease most frequently seen in man. The disease generally takes two forms: the most common being the cutaneous form when a wound on the skin comes in contact with contaminated wool or hair; the other less common is the pulmonary-mediastinal form which has a more rapid course. In all cases of the disease early therapy is the key to survival.
Historic Homeopathic Therapy
Dr. Schaeffer in his text states, “In all forms of anthrax, ACONITE, ARSENICUM, NUX VOMICA and MERCURIUS VIVUS are to be given in the above enumerated order. Dosing is recommended every 15 minutes day and night, that is ACONITE and 15 minutes later ARSENICUM and 15 minutes later NUX VOMICA and finally 15 minutes later MERCURIUS VIVUS–until the patient shows obvious improvement, and then every half hour day and night. On day 2 dosing should be hourly. On day three every two hours; on day four, every three; on day five, every four; on day 6, every five and on day seven every 6 hours, even though the animal should seem perfectly healthy.”7
John Sutcliffe Hurndall, MRCVS authored the text Veterinary Homeopathy in 1896, published by Boericke and Tafel. Therein on pages 75 to 77 is written the following: “LACHESIS is a most efficient remedy for the treatment (of anthrax) and should be kept at hand for immediate use. Ten drops or 10 pellets (cattle dose) should be given hourly at first and then every 3 hours as the patient improves. Immediately all sick animals should be quarantined (isolated) from the well animals. . . Sick animals should be fed soft wet mashes made of boiled linseed or barley (or oats) carrots and finely chopped grasses.” When there are any neurologic signs such as any trembling or delirium, the nosode ANTHRACINUM CM is reported to be useful. (A CM potency is high potency –at 1 to 100,000.)
All dead animals should be carefully and immediately removed from the premises. At no time should the bodies be necropsied on the farm. All secretions and excretions should be considered infective. One drop of blood could be fatal to other animals on the farm. Dead carcasses do not undergo rigor mortis.
In the US anthrax is a reportable disease. Veterinarians are obligated to report any suspected cases to state and federal authorities. Quarantines, disposal of carcasses, cleaning and disinfectant of premises will be carried out by the same authorities and under their supervision.
In the 21st century several antibiotics are reported to be effective. Those used most frequently are ciprofloxacin and the tetracyclines. In livestock, penicillin in high doses may be effective if begun early in the course of the disease. A vaccine is available for livestock to help prevent anthrax in endemic areas.
Since the homeopathic approach generally works quickly to support the patient without side effects, it is prudent to begin early until a proper diagnosis can be made. If the diagnosis is positive for anthrax, then antibiotic therapy should be instituted as well.
- Anthrax is an acute septicemic disease in man and farm animals requiring therapeutic intervention as soon as possible.
- Anthrax spores live in the soil of endemic areas for a long period of time. Neutral or alkaline soils can harbor the anthrax organism.
- With acute anthrax animals may live as long as 24 hours. Chronic cases in animals, except for the cutaneous form, generally live from 3 to 7 days.
- Cutaneous anthrax, although potentially serious, allows more time for proper therapeutics.
- Any suspected cases of anthrax must be reported to the State Department of Agriculture and the USDA.
- Where antibiotics are not immediately available to treat a suspected case, the homeopathic medicine should be dosed frequently in the drinking water. Use the historic homeopathic medicines as described plus ANTHRACINUM for cases of skin infection or symptoms of the nervous system.
- Contact with the patient should be avoided until the test result is confirmed negative.
- Once the diagnosis of anthrax is confirmed positive, antibiotic therapy is indicated and should be begun immediately.
Protecting Yourself Against Anthrax
Like all bacterial diseases, anthrax proliferates in individuals with poor general health and poor immune system function. The following are recommended for strengthening one’s resistance to bacterial disease.
COD LIVER OIL: Provides vitamins A and D, essential for a healthy immune system. Recommended daily dose is 2-3 teaspoons.
COCONUT OIL: Provides lauric acid which the body uses to make monolaurin, a strong antimicrobial compound.
SATURATED FATS: The lungs cannot function without saturated fats found in butter, tallow and other animal fats. Some of these fats also have antimicrobial properties.
GARLIC: The antibiotic activity of one milligram of allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, equals 15 units of penicillin. Garlic even blocks toxin production by germs (Journal Nutrition, March 2001).
UNSOAKED WHOLE GRAINS, HIGH IN PHYTIC ACID: Phytic acid binds with iron. Iron-chelating drugs and antibiotics are effective against pathogens and iron removal retards growth of the plague (Medical Hypothesis, Jan 1980). Rough grains can be eaten for a short period as a prophylactic against bacterial poisoning. This is a folk tradition found in areas where white rice is normally consumed.
ACEROLA OR AMALAKI POWDER: These are powders of fruits naturally high in vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system.
OIL OF OREGANO: A few drops added to water can provide excellent antibacterial protection.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: Food grade hydrogen peroxide, added in small amounts to drinking water, kills bacteria.
Acknowledgement: The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Chris Davis who obtained copies of homeopathic textbooks from the medical archives of the University of Michigan Library.
Editor’s Note: Antibiotics were invented, and their use is justified, for diseases as serious as anthrax. However, fluoridated antibiotics such as Cipro are expensive and can have dangerous side effects. Tetracycline or penicillin are approved for treatment of anthrax and have fewer side effects. They can be used in parallel with the homeopathic remedies suggested in this article, and the natural remedies listed below.
Sources: Dr. Sheaffer recommends the following two companies for homeopathic remedies:
- Arrowroot Standard Direct, Los Angeles CA or Paoli PA.
- Washington Homeopathic Products, Bethesda MD or Berkeley Springs WV.
- Merck Veterinary Manual; Eighth Edition, 1998. pp 432-435.
- JH Clarke, MD, Dictionary of Materia Medica, Vol. 1 pp 118-119.
- C Hering, MD, The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica, Vol. 1, p 299.
- JC Schaeffer; New Manual of Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine, 1863.
- Schaeffer, p 80.
- Schaeffer p 81-82.
- Schaeffer, p 83-84.
Copyright: This article was published in Acres USA, December 2001 and is reprinted with kind permission.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2001.