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COVID-19 Vaccine UpdateJan. 12, 2023, 11:25 a.m.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome & Vaccines

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your lower extremities are usually the first symptoms.

How Does GBS Happen?

The exact cause of Guillain-Barré Syndrome is unknown, but it is often preceded by a vaccine, or infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, which is the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. GBS can range from a very mild case with brief weakness to nearly devastating paralysis, leaving the person unable to breathe independently. While most people eventually recover from even the most severe cases of GBS, permanent catastrophic outcomes and death can result. After recovery, some people will continue to have some degree of weakness, numbness, tingling, neuropathic pain and fatigue. (cite: Rodríguez, Y., Rojas, M., Pacheco, Y. et al. Guillain–Barré syndrome, transverse myelitis and infectious diseases. Cell Mol Immunol 15, 547–562 (2018)). Guillain-Barré syndrome can affect anyone at any age. It is more frequent in adults and older people, and both genders are equally susceptible to the disorder (despite some studies indicating that GBS is more prevalent in men than women). GBS is estimated to affect about one person in 100,000 each year.

How Do I Know if I Have Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

The first symptom of Guillain-Barré Syndrome is often weakness or tingling in the legs. Those sensations can spread to the arms and upper body until the victim becomes paralyzed. GBS can cause such severe muscle weakness that patients must be put on a ventilator to breathe. Some of the most common symptoms include: - Pins and needles in your lower extremities; - Weakness in your legs that spreads up through your body; - Trouble walking or keeping your balance - Difficulty swallowing - Difficulty breathing

Is There Treatment For GBS?

There's no known cure for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. The two types of treatment are Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) and Immunoglobulin therapy. Most people recover from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, though some may experience lingering effects from it, such as weakness, numbness or fatigue.

Can a Flu Shot Cause GBS?

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is the most common and most severe acute paralytic neuropathy, with about 100,000 people developing the disorder every year worldwide. There are many known causes of GBS that are supported by relevant medical literature and supported by clinical practices including many viral and bacterial agents, however the link between GBS and the flu shot often gets overlooked. Relevant medical literature on the issue consistently establishes a causal link between the influenza vaccine (flu shot) and the onset of GBS. The literature states that if an individual had a flu shot within the six (6) weeks prior to the onset of GBS, then it is likely that the cause of the GBS was from their flu shot. (cite: J Kwong. Risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after seasonal influenza vaccination and influenza health-care encounters: a self-controlled study. The Lancet. 2013 Sep;13(9):769-76). When determining the onset of GBS, it is important to note that it is not when the diagnosis occurs or is made by a medical professional, but rather when the symptoms of GBS began after the flu shot. The onset of GBS is most typically characterized by a sudden and rapid onset of numbness, weakness and tingling in the individual's feet and/or legs. The symptoms can also present as a burning, "crawling ants," or "pins and needles" sensation in the legs. Individuals will also often have a spontaneous fall due to the severe lower extremity weakness. Symptoms peak within 4 weeks after onset, 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).

Can I get Compensation if I developed GBS after a Flu Shot?

Based on years of successful litigation in proving that the influenza vaccine (flu shot) can and does cause GBS, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has conceded that the flu shot can and does cause GBS if the symptoms of GBS began within 42 days of the person receiving a flu shot. If you or a loved one fits within this time frame, then you are automatically eligible for compensation and it is just a matter of "how much." If you or a loved one received a flu shot in the weeks before the onset of GBS, please connect with one of our vaccine attorneys for a free review of your case. An attorney can discuss how you would be eligible for vaccine injury compensation settlements that can help pay for medical expenses, future medical care and lost wages.

Can a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine cause GBS?

In rare instances, after receiving a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine, their is a chance that a person may develop an auto-immune disease called Guillain-Barré 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).

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