Swine flu

I have been listening to all the news about the swine flu. I believe this is a real concern but not necessarily a reason to panic. So far the flu doesn’t seem to be fatal in most cases but is does spread rapidly once it comes into an area.

Those of us who have horses are aware of what a flu outbreak looks like. Typical case is that a horse comes home from a show or event with a cough and fever and the next thing you know many other horses in the barn have it. Notice I said many but not all horses that are exposed actually come down with symptoms.

One of my barns just went through this experience. We do not vaccinate for flu or rhino at this barn but we had given the VEWT and WNV to most of the horses a few weeks before the show season. When we heard that 5 horses were coming home with symptoms we decided to isolate the mares and foals but let the other horses be exposed and treat them as needed. We knew the rest of the young horses would eventually be exposed to this bug so felt now was as good a time as any.

Here is how it played out. Three days after the horses got home as expected the first few 4 year olds in the barn started coughing. We started them on the homeopathic remedy, aconite, to try and keep the initial inflammation to a minimum so we would not have any long term lung damage. Several days later we were second guessing ourselves and about half the horses in the barn had some degree of symptoms. The younger horses had the worst symptoms with high fevers, coughing, very snotty noses and decreased appetites. The older horses had mild fevers but continued to eat. The original show horses that had brought in the virus recovered uneventfully with some homeopathic support.

After one week most horses were over the worst of the symptoms but a few of the youngest were still coughing and not eating so these were put on antibiotics for secondary infections. They quickly responded and now 3 weeks later all 27 horses are symptom free and most are back in work. One of the broodmares who had not foaled had a healthy filly even though another mare in same pen had symptoms and passed them on to other horses when she was taken to be bred. Of course, this mare did not have any symptoms when she was sent to the breeding barn and we thought we had this pen isolated from the others or we would never have sent her out.

My point is, not all epidemics are a disaster. If the population is healthy not all individuals will get sick and those who do can overcome the infection if their immune system is healthy. In the case of show horses exposure to these bugs is inevitable so a controlled infection like this can be a good thing. I know vaccines might have prevented the flu symptoms but I believe the natural infection gives better and safer immunity than multiple vaccinations containing toxic ingredients. In future years we may selectively vaccinate some of the young show horses with the intranasal flu vaccine before sending them to their first shows but this decision will be made on a case by case basis.

I would say the best defense against this current swine flu threat is to keep travel and exposure to others at a minimum and build your own immune system defenses. I take an immune support supplement daily because the beta glucan in it keeps the immune system alert. I also take packets of algae, probiotics and enzymes because the probiotics support my immune system and the algae has been proven to stimulate protective immune system T cells. If you have concerns about the current swine flu you can keep up on the latest reports at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
and here are some great suggestions from a hospital nurse.
Just FYI–
My hospital is considered a  “border hospital”. We have a huge Mexican patient population. I can tell you what we are telling the hundreds of people that are swarming our facility because they think they have the swine flu….and as far as I am concerned (after all my research that I have done this week) it is good advice.

Wash your hands ALOT—and carry hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go.  I know this sounds just too basic—but if you do it, your chances of getting the flu drop ridiculously low.

Stay 3-4 feet from people who are coughing or look sick in public and you will be ok.This flu, just like most others, is tranmitted by contact or droplets. A 3-4 foot distance is usually enough to keep you from inhaling others germs when they cough and sneeze.

Try to remember that this is just like any other flu, really……more people die from regular flu every year than they have from this…….it just has a scarier name. There is no medicine for it, and there is really no reason to go to the doctor unless you have a high fever. They won’t be able to do much for you anyway…..just like the regular flu.

If you feel sick, drink plenty of clear fluids and stay away from other people so you don’t continue to spread it around.  (It’s most contagious the 2 days prior to you getting symptoms…so most people don’t even know they are spreading it)  If you get a fever, call your doctor and tell him all your symptoms. they may want to see you to make sure you are not dehydrated and don’t have some sort of bacterial infection that they can treat…(flu is viral, not bacterial) .

Nurses and doctors and “all us medical-folk” work around people with much scarier and harmful diagnoses than this every day….we just use precautions….like handwashing, masks within 3 feet, and gloves if we are gonna be touching their bodies, linens, etc.  You are gonna end up with hands that look like mine….red, scaly, peeling….but CLEAN…and you will probably avoid the flu! Madalyn

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About Madalyn Ward, DVM

This blog provides information based on my unique take on horse health and well being. The articles are based on experience of treating and working with horses for over 40 years. In most cases the articles are focused on an holistic approach to health and management. When conventional medicine offers good research or therapy, I share this information as well. Madalyn Ward, DVM

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