A four-year-old boy named Jonah is at the center of a heated debate over the ethics of homeopathic treatment after receiving a diluted rabies solution administered by a “naturopathic physician” in Canada. In a blog post, naturopath Anke Zimmermann explained how she “cured” the young boy of supposedly rabies-like symptoms including bouts of aggression and poor sleep by giving him a home remedy made from the saliva of a rabid dog. Now, Canadian health officials are sounding off on the practice and warning the public that such treatment is less than safe.
Plenty of people have misgivings about modern medicine, but at the end of the day it’s safe to say that going to an actual doctor is probably going to give you the best chance at a positive result. Nevertheless, homemade medicines and natural remedies have many believers, and have helped lots of people find relief from minor discomforts. A dog bite is obviously a good deal more serious, and Jonah was reportedly the victim of a bad bite when he was just two years old.
After the incident, the boy began to act strange, and would hide under tables and even growl at people. The boy was never diagnosed with rabies, and the fact that he didn’t die is evidence that the bite wasn’t infectious, but Zimmermann claims that doesn’t necessarily matter.
“A bite from an animal, with or without rabies vaccination has the potential to imprint an altered state in the person who was bitten, in some ways similar to a rabies infection,” she said. The young boy also developed a fear of werewolves, zombies, and ghosts, which are all pretty common considering he’s a four-year-old child. Zimmermann chose to address the child’s issues by administering the diluted solution made of rabid dog saliva.
According to Zimmermann, the boy showed noticeable improvements in the days that followed. “I saw Jonah’s mother a week later by herself,” Zimmerman wrote. “There was good news: ‘His restlessness is much better! And oddly enough, he now wants to be a werewolf for Halloween, he told us that he is not afraid of werewolves anymore.'” Umm, okay.
As you might expect, these claims aren’t passing the smell test for doctors, and some have written to Canada’s health agency to protest the approval of such treatments. As CBC notes, Canada has approved over 8,500 homeopathic products for use by the public, one of which is the substance used to treat young Jonah. There’s no medical foundation for Zimmerman’s claims, and since it sounds like most of the boy’s issues were psychologically linked to the dog bite, it’s unclear how a diluted rabies remedy would have changed anything beyond a placebo effect.
The very public war of words between the medical establishment and Zimmerman is far from over, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out.