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Transverse Myelitis After Flu Vaccine

How is Transverse Myelitis Caused by a Flu Shot?

Transverse Myelitis is an immune response that can be triggered following the administration of an influenza or tetanus shot. It affects those of all ages.

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What is Transverse Myelitis?

Transverse Myelitis ("TM") is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord resulting from damage to nerve cells in a certain area. It is characterized by signs of neurologic dysfunction in motor and sensory tracts on either side of the spinal cord. The involvement of motor and sensory control pathways frequently produce altered sensation, weakness and sometimes urinary or bowel dysfunction. TM is an unbiased condition and immune response, affecting all age groups from young children to the elderly, regardless of family history, gender or race. The term “transverse” indicates dysfunction across the entire spinal cord, however this term can be misleading. There is not always damage across the whole cord. Even a pinpoint area of inflammation can result in asymmetric spinal cord dysfunction below the level affected, while functioning above that level remains normal. As such, the medical community often uses the single term “myelitis” to describe the condition.


Transverse Myelitis Vaccine reaction

Transverse Myelitis can be caused by an influenza vaccination, tetanus shot, and other vaccines. It is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Inflammatory attacks can damage or destroy myelin, the protective covering that surrounds nerve fibers, different than a SIRVA injury. If the myelin is destroyed, the nerves are exposed to damage leading to subsequent symptoms of Transverse Myelitis.


Transverse Myelitis symptoms and causes

Debilitating symptoms include a loss of spinal cord function over several hours to several weeks. TM often begins as a sudden onset of lower back pain, muscle weakness, or abnormal sensations in the toes and feet, similar to that of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

TM can rapidly progress to more severe symptoms, including paralysis due to impacted nerve cell fibers, urinary retention, and loss of bowel control. Although some patients recover with little to no residual problems, others suffer permanent impairments that affect their ability to perform ordinary tasks of daily living.

There are four (4) ‘classic’ symptoms of TM, which can show up in as little as a few hours or days, or gradually over the course of a few weeks:

  • Weakness in the upper and lower extremities;
  • Sensory problems such as numbness or tingling (pins-and-needles);
  • General pain and discomfort (lower back);
  • Bladder dysfunction and/or bowel motility issues.

The bodily distribution of these symptoms can be either symmetric or asymmetric, affecting one (1) or both legs and arms. 60% of TM cases have unknown causes despite the presence of inflammatory evidence. However, the remaining 40% of cases are caused by three things: autoimmune disorders, infections and vaccines.


Autoimmune Disorders


  • Bacterial (Lyme disease, tuberculosis, syphilis, etc.)
  • Fungal (aspergillus, blastomyces, coccidioides and cryptococcus)
  • Parasites (toxoplasmosis, cysticercosis, schistosomiasis, etc.)
  • Viral (Varicella zoster – causes chickenpox and shingles, enterovirus and West Nile virus)

Recently, My Vaccine Lawyer's founding partner Paul Brazil was interviewed by Jodie Fleischer of NBC4 Washington about vaccine injuries such as Transverse Myelitis, 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.


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How is Transverse Myelitis Diagnosed?

If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms of TM following a flu shot or other vaccine, especially if they grow in severity at a quick rate, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will run certain tests to such Magnetic Resonance Imaging ("MRI") or Computerized Tomography ("CT") scan, lumbar puncture / spinal tap (higher amount of white blood cells in the fluid could be a sign of infection), or Blood work to check you symptoms.


What is the Treatment for transverse myelitis?

There is no known effective cure for TM, so doctors generally try to manage the disease and ease the patients symptoms with antiviral medications, Intravenous Immunoglobulin (“IVIG”) therapy, medications for various symptoms, over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, plasma exchange therapy, steroids, rehabilitative therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and many different non-medical treatments. Our lawyers have seen partial recovery and full recovery in our Transverse Myelitis clients.


Transverse Myelitis & Multiple Sclerosis 

In the United States, Transverse Myelitis may be the first indication of multiple sclerosis in younger people. MS destroys the myelin in the brain and spinal cord nerves, causing weakness and stiffness, tingling in the body, numbness, blurred vision and difficulty with thinking. In rare cases, an adverse reaction can include one or more of the following: sexual dysfunction, anxiety, or depression.


How to report Transverse Myelitis after flu vaccine injury

In the wake of a flu vaccine injury, you should immediately notify your doctor's office. Be sure to provide the date of vaccination, the vaccine administrator’s information and the site of injection (i.e., left or right arm.) Your medical provider will ensure that you begin a course of treatment to best address your symptoms. Additionally, you should:

  • Call your doctor as some vaccine injuries can be life-threatening if left untreated;
  • Tell your doctor exactly what happened, the date and time of your vaccine, and shoulder it was given;
  • Ask your doctor to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System ("VAERS") form.
  • Hire a vaccine injury attorney to protect your rights and ensure potential financial compensation.

VAERS stands for the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is a program managed by the CDC. The program processes submitted reports of vaccine injuries and adverse events from those who have been injured. It is not to bring a traditional civil lawsuit against any vaccine manufacturers. It is important to note that VAERS does not diagnose those who have been injured with a vaccine injury, but rather compile data about reported adverse reactions for the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration in hopes of improving vaccine safety measures in the future. There are no restrictions to who can file a VAERS report and it is often used as supplemental evidence in vaccine cases when determining the onset of an injury or symptoms.


Compensation for a Transverse Myelitis After Flu Vaccine Injury

If you or a loved one received an influenza vaccine, tetanus shot, or another vaccine and were diagnosed with acute Transverse Myelitis, you may qualify for compensation from a government fund called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. For more information, please contact us for a free consultation at (800) 229-7704. Our representation comes at no cost to you.



Page last reviewed and updated: September 30, 2021

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