Will COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Trigger Autoimmune Diseases such a Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

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Reviewed by The Vaccine Awareness Center Legal Team

In the last several months, the biggest conversation has been the spread of the coronavirus from China into other parts of the world resulting in what is widely being called another health pandemic, similar to the H1N1, zika, and SARS outbreaks in recent memory. With the coronavirus dominating the headlines and political climate, an underreported issue has been whether the coronavirus will lead to additional medical concerns for people that are infected. These medical concerns can be autoimmune diseases and other diseases that manifest when triggered by an infection. **Coronavirus (COVID-19)** Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, however, several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. According to the WHO, the common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. While the coronavirus originated in China, it has affected nearly 85,000 people worldwide and resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths to date. The United States has reported more than 60 cases at this point with the bulk of the cases (47 cases) being people who were evacuated from China or from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship. There have been 15 previous cases in people who contracted the virus overseas, and three cases where people were infected in the United States, and in particular, in the Pacific Northwest states such as Washington, California and Oregon. Health officials in Washington state said on Saturday a coronavirus patient has died, marking the first death in the U.S. from COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus. The person who died was a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions, and there was no evidence he contracted the virus through travel, health officials said. **Influenza Virus** Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it's not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. For most people, influenza resolves on its own with the help of over the counter medications. As of January 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates indicate that there have been 13 million influenza illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6600 flu-related deaths. Nationally, the influenza B viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among children age 0-4 years (47% of reported viruses) and 5-24 years (57% of reported viruses). On the other hand, the influenza A (H1N1) viruses are the most commonly reported viruses among the 25-64 years age group (46% of reported viruses) and 65 years and older (53% of reported viruses). In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to — in the worst year — 56,000, according to the CDC. However, in 2017, nearly 80,000 people died from the influenza virus. **Zika Virus** In early 2015, a widespread epidemic of Zika fever, caused by the Zika virus in Brazil, spread to other parts of South and North America. In January 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus was likely to spread throughout most of the Americas by the end of 2016. In February 2016, WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern as evidence mounted linking the Zika virus to birth defects since the virus can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus resulting in microcephaly and other severe brain anomalies in the infant. In addition, Zika infections in adults can result in Guillain–Barré syndrome, a neurological autoimmune disease that results in numbness, weakness and tingling in the bilateral lower and upper extremities leading to complete paralysis. Prior to this outbreak, Zika was considered to be a mild infection that manifested in fevers and rashes, making it difficult to establish if some was actually infected with the Zika virus. **Viruses are known triggers for autoimmune diseases, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)** Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system is triggered in a way in which it attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The acute progression of limb weakness, often with sensory and cranial nerve involvement 1–2 weeks after immune stimulation, proceeds to its peak clinical deficit in 2–4 weeks. When patients present with rapidly progressive paralysis, the diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome needs to be made as soon as possible. Symptoms peak within 4 weeks, followed by a recovery period that can last months or years, as the immune response decays and the peripheral nerve undergoes an endogenous repair process. (cite: HJ Willison. Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The Lancet. 2016. 388:10045. Pp. 717-727). **What Causes GBS?** Guillain-Barré syndrome is the most common and most severe acute paralytic neuropathy, with about 100,000 people developing the disorder every year worldwide. GBS can be preceded by infections, by viral and bacterial, or by vaccination. Cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome have been linked to the zika virus, influenza virus and vaccinations. The relevant medical literature that supports the causal link between GBS and the flu shot is based on the 1976 vaccination campaign for H1N1 influenza A virus, where roughly one in 100 000 people who had been vaccinated developed Guillain-Barré syndrome. (cite: HJ Willison. Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The Lancet. 2016. 388:10045. Pp. 717-727). Other vaccines, including tetanus, TDaP, MMR, and Hepatitis A vaccines, have also been linked to the development of GBS. **Legal Recourse** If you or a loved one received a vaccine or flu shot in the weeks before the onset of GBS, please contact our vaccine attorney who can discuss how you would be eligible for vaccine compensation settlements for pain and suffering, medical expenses, future medical care and lost wages. [Click here to see if you are eligible for compensation][1] [1]: https://www.vaccineawarenesscenter.com/contact/

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