GBS After a Flu Shot, Guillain Barre
What is the relationship between the vaccine and illness?
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that can be triggered in a person's body after receiving a vaccine such as the flu shot or tetanus shot.
What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre Syndrome, commonly referred to as GBS, is a disease that affects the peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system (i.e. the brain and spinal cord) to the arms, legs, and internal organs.
The peripheral nerves are found throughout the torso and limbs. The fibers of the nerves are protected by an insulating layer of proteins and fats called myelin. An attack on the myelin usually results in its periodical loss. When the myelin is lost, the nerve fibers become unprotected. Subsequently, the unprotected nerve fibers may then become damaged.
Because these peripheral nerve fibers are responsible for carrying signals from the brain to the limbs, this damage can lead to decreased sensation, numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or paralysis in the limbs. Often, Guillain-Barre Syndrome symptoms will start in the legs and progress up through the body to the head and arms.
Other GBS symptoms include facial paralysis, respiratory difficulty, permanent nerve damage, and vision problems.
What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre Syndrome ("GBS") can occur following the administration of a vaccine such as the flu shot.
The initial symptoms of GBS after receiving an influenza vaccination or another vaccine are typically weakness, tingling in your hands and feet, respiratory failure, and other side effects. These symptoms can quickly spread in an ascending fashion, meaning that it travels up the limbs from the fingers and toes towards the torso. In rare cases, as Guillain-Barre Syndrome progresses, muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis and sometimes death.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome Causes and Symptoms
If you have experienced Guillain-Barre Syndrome from a flu shot or Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (“CIDP”) from another vaccine, you may be entitled to compensation through a special federal trust fund called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Our vaccine injury law firm has represented hundreds of clients suffering from GBS after a flu shot and other vaccines across the United States. Our fees are paid through the VICP, not by our clients.
Can the flu shot cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
The influenza vaccine and tetanus shot are often linked to having a temporal association in triggering a body's immune response.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system essentially malfunctions causing the immune system to attack necessary and normal parts of the body like nerve cells.
In the case of GBS, the cause of this autoimmune response is usually a foreign infection.
How is GBS diagnosed? GBS treatment and recovery
To diagnose GBS, the treating doctor will usually prescribe an Electromyogram ("EMG") to test the functioning of the nerves and a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, to test the spinal fluid for infection. As seen in many of our clients' severe cases when admitted to the emergency room, the person may suffer from paralysis in their diaphragm which would make respiratory assistance through intubation necessary.
While there is currently no cure for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, there are two types of treatments which can speed recovery and reduce the severity of symptoms:
Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
the liquid portion of part of your blood (plasma) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. Plasmapheresis may work by ridding plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system's attack on the peripheral nerves.
Intravenous Immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG)
immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors is supplied intravenously. High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome Causes and risk Factors
Am I at risk?
People who are at an increased risk of GBS are those usually 65 and older, newborns through the first three (3) months of their life, those who have a history of chronic respiratory illness, and pregnant women, as 1 in 4 carry GBS bacteria during their pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome:
- Prickling, pins and needles sensations in your fingers, toes, ankles or wrists;
- Weakness in your legs that spreads to your upper body;
- Unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs;
- Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing;
- Double vision or inability to move eyes;
- Severe pain that may feel achy, shooting or cramp-like and may be worse at night;
- Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function;
- Rapid heart rate;
- Susceptibility to other bacterial infections;
- Low or high blood pressure;
- Difficulty breathing.
People with Guillain-Barré Syndrome usually experience their most significant weakness within two weeks after symptoms begin.
Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Once thought to be a singular rare neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a condition that is now known to occur in several forms. The main types are:
- Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy ("AIDP"), the most common form in North America and Europe. The most common sign of AIDP is muscle weakness that starts in the lower part of your body and spreads upward.
- Miller Fisher syndrome ("MFS"), is when paralysis starts in the eyes. MFS is also associated with unsteady gait. MFS is less common in the U.S. but more common in Asia.
- Acute motor axonal neuropathy ("AMAN") and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN), although are less common in the U.S., AMAN and AMSAN are more frequent in China, Japan and Mexico.
Compensation for a Guillain-Barre Syndrome Flu Shot Injury
If you received a flu vaccination or another vaccine and were diagnosed with a rare disorder such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Parsonage-Turner Syndrome or Brachial Neuritis, you may qualify for financial compensation from a government fund called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
GBS cases are becoming more common in the Vaccine Injury Court as the seasonal influenza vaccine becomes more accessible each year. Contact our vaccine injury lawyers for a free consultation.
My Vaccine Lawyer's founding partner Paul Brazil
Interviewed by Jodie Fleischer of NBC4 Washington.
Paul was asked about vaccine injuries like Guillain-Barre Syndrome along with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which is a federal compensation program for vaccine injuries in the United States. Paul and Jodie also discuss the frequency of these injuries and the lack of public knowledge about the VICP. Additionally, you can Read our blog about a New Treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome which is in Phase II clinical trial.