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04/20/2018 17:24 EDT | Updated 04/20/2018 17:24 EDT

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Speaks Out After Naturopath Treated Boy With Rabid Dog Saliva

Dr. Bonnie Henry says she is urging Health Canada to review its approval of lyssin.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press
Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks to the media following an announcement in Victoria, B.C., Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Henry is expressing concern about a Victoria naturopath who treated a four-year-old boy with the saliva of a rabid dog.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's top doctor and an alternative-medicine group are both expressing concern about a Victoria naturopath who treated a four-year-old boy with the saliva of a rabid dog.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she is urging Health Canada to review its approval of lyssin, a naturopathic product that claims to contain the infected saliva.

Henry says in a statement that the product could potentially put patients at risk of contracting rabies, a deadly virus usually transmitted through a bite. She also warns that such treatments are not substitute for vaccines.

"While I believe that homeopathy plays a complimentary role for some families in their health, I have concerns that some people may delay or avoid proven effective treatments while relying on homeopathy alone," Henry said in a statement.

She said she has seen examples where parents believe that homeopathic treatments can replace health measures like immunizations, when that's clearly not the case and could leave their children at risk of serious infections.

Health Canada said the lyssin/hydrophominum products on the Canadian market approved by it are safe for consumption and have met high standards to demonstrate the product is safe.

"Health Canada takes the safety of health products on the Canadian market very seriously," Health Canada said in an emailed statement.

"Should a product not meet the terms of its market authorization, Health Canada will take immediate action."

The B.C. Naturopathic Association filed a complaint Thursday against practitioner Anke Zimmermann, claiming she may have breached the association's code of conduct and code of ethics for naturopathic doctors.

It notes that Zimmermann is not a member of the association but her conduct still concerns the organization.

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"We are concerned that certain statements and posts she has made, in person and online, appear to be contrary to the public interest in the practice of the profession — and therefore require action on the part of the regulator to intervene," co-president Victor Chan said in a statement.

In a blog post that has since been removed, Zimmermann detailed her treatment of the boy's sleep and behavioural problems as a success.

The boy growled like a dog, couldn't sleep because he was afraid of werewolves and was often defiant and over-excited, the post said.

She noted the boy was once bitten by a dog and it broke the skin, so she decided to treat him for rabies.

"This child presented a perfect picture of the rabies state," she wrote.

I have news for you people, homeopathy either works or it doesn't.Anke Zimmerman

Despite some expected relapses, she reports that the remedy "worked very well."

Zimmerman could not be reached directly for comment, but in an updated post, she said she took down the original after receiving hundreds of hateful messages, including threats of injury.

She said critics can't have it both ways, when they criticize homeopathy.

"I have news for you people, homeopathy either works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, what does it matter what it's made of, dog saliva, elephant's dung or badger's pubic hair, it's so diluted that it's only water after all, or a placebo, a sugar pill," the post says.

She says the heavy dilution process involved in creating homeopathic remedies means the boy was never exposed to rabies.

"After the (dilution) process is repeated 12 times it is basically impossible to have even one of the original molecules left in the solution, which is ultimately often used to medicate lactose or sucrose pellets. Therefor there is no single molecule of rabies in the remedy. You can't catch rabies from the remedy."

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