Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a rare disease that attacks the immune system and damages nerve cells. The damage disrupts signals between the affected nerves and the brain. It may lead to pain, weakness, or numbness in the limbs connected to these damaged nerves.

Most Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases are treatable, but the symptoms (pain, numbness, and tingling (paresthesia) and sometimes weakness) may last for weeks or years in severe cases. GBS can lead to death, paralysis, or life-long disabilities in a small percentage of people. In fact, some people who suffer from Guillain-Barre Syndrome have trouble breathing and need a respirator.

GBS occurs in people of all ages and races, but it is most common among adults over 50 years old. GBS is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the nerves in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. Vaccinations like the flu vaccine are known triggers of Guillian-Barre Syndrome.

GBS can cause death, paralysis, or life-long disability. We are here to help you if you or a loved one recently had a GBS diagnosis, and you believe that a flu shot caused it.  There is hope that you can be compensated for pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost income. We have helped 100s of vaccine-injured people recover compensation. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation to see if you qualify for the federal government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Causes

Medical science accepts that infections and vaccines cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome. In fact, the U.S. government recently recognized people who suffer GBS from the flu shot should receive compensation from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Vaccines

People suffer GBS days or weeks after receiving a vaccination every year.  The symptoms usually appear 3 to 4 weeks after vaccination and begin with numbness and tingling in the hands and/or legs.  Weakness is not usually an initial symptom of GBS.  Weakness is usually a sign of another condition called CIDP.

Tetanus, hepatitis, and influenza vaccines are the most common culprits, although recently the link between the Tetanus vaccine and GBS has weakened a little.

The flu shot changes every year so the FDA approves a new vaccine every year.  Because the virus changes every year, no studies into flu vaccine-related GBS have been successful in isolating a specific viral particle that triggers GBS.

Pregnant women, individuals with severe flu shot allergies, and people over 50 should not take flu shots to avoid medical complications.

The CDC also advises that all children and adults receive tetanus vaccinations. The trigger compound in tetanus shots for Guillain-Barre Syndrome is also unclear, and most healthcare providers perform tetanus vaccinations alongside diphtheria and pertussis vaccinations. The labels include:

Infections

Other cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome occur days or weeks after developing an infection. In two-thirds of GBS cases, it develops after experiencing diarrhea or a respiratory illness for a few days. Studies indicate that Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium, is another prominent risk factor. Other infections that can trigger GBS are:

  • Viral gastroenteritis
  • HIV
  • Flu
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein Barr
  • Glandular fever
  • Tropical diseases (like dengue fever and Zika virus)

Variations of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

  • The Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a condition where the body attacks itself (an autoimmune disease). The immune system begins to treat the nerves as an invader and tries to destroy them. The nerves that are attacked and destroyed are no longer able to transmit signals to the brain, resulting in numbness, tingling, and paralysis.  There are a number of types of GBS that flu shots and tetanus vaccines may trigger, including
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
    • CIDP is not a form of GBS, but a separate condition. However, most people think of CIDP as chronic GBS because they can appear similar at first.
  • Bickerstaff’s Brainstem Encephalitis (BBE)
  • Acute Panautonomic Neuropathy
  • Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS)
  • Acute Motor Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN)
  • Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN)
  • Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (AIDP)
  • Pharyngeal-Cervical-Brachial Variant

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and the Flu Vaccine

patient getting a flu vaccine The first recorded connection between GBS and the flu vaccine was after the 1976 swine flu pandemic vaccination program in the U.S. The National Academy of Medicine reviewed the reports and peer-reviewed literature in 2003, indicating that recipients of the 1976 swine flu vaccine were at a greater risk of developing GBS.

The 1979 paper from Schonberger found that there was an increased risk of GBS after receiving vaccines containing influenza A.  You can read the abstract for yourself here – Guillain-Barre syndrome following vaccination in the National Influenza Immunization Program, United States, 1976–1977 – PubMed (nih.gov)

Schonberger, L. B., et al. (1979). “Guillain-Barre syndrome following vaccination in the National Influenza Immunization Program, United States, 1976–1977.” Am J Epidemiol 110(2): 105-123.

Because of an increase in the number of reports of Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) following A/New Jersey influenza vaccination, the National Influenza Immunization Program was suspended December 16, 1976, and nationwide surveillance for GBS was begun. This surveillance uncovered a total of 1098 patients with onset of GBS from October 1, 1976, to January 31, 1977, from all 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. A total of 532 patients had recently received an A/New Jersey influenza vaccination prior to their onset of GBS (vaccinated cases), and 15 patients received a vaccination after their onset of GBS.

Five hundred forty-three patients had not been recently vaccinated with A/New Jersey influenza vaccine and the vaccination status for 8 was unknown. Epidemiologic evidence indicated that many cases of GBS were related to vaccination. When compared to the unvaccinated population, the vaccinated population had a significantly elevated attack rate in every adult age group. The estimated attributable risk of vaccine-related GBS in the adult population was just under one case per 100,000 vaccinations. The period of increased risk was concentrated primarily within the 5-week period after vaccination, although it lasted for approximately 9 or 10 weeks. According to Schonberger’s study, one in 100,000 recipients of the 1976 flu shot developed GBS.

The swine flu brush of 1976 holds crucial lessons for the government and health officials. The panic in 1976 was partly because of the belief — now known to be erroneous — that the 1918-19 flu pandemic, which killed half a million Americans and as many as 50 million worldwide, was caused by a virus with swine components. Recent research suggests instead that it was avian flu, but that seems unlikely to assuage the current anxiety.

Regardless, due to the panic in 1976, a disease that was uncommon to many people became many people’s focus and the center of attention.  Even to this day, it causes concern to many and that disease is called Guillain-Barré syndrome, the most common form of nerve damage related to vaccines.

The episode began in February 1976 when an Army recruit at Ft. Dix, N.J., fell ill and died from a swine flu virus thought to be similar to the 1918 strain. Several other soldiers at the base also became ill. Shortly thereafter, Wenzel and his colleagues reported two cases of the flu strain in Virginia.

“That raised the concern that the original cluster at Ft. Dix had spread beyond New Jersey,” said Wenzel, former president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

At the CDC, Dr. David J. Sencer, the CDC Director who led the government’s response to the threat and was later fired, solicited the opinions of infectious disease specialists nationwide and,in March, called on President Ford and Congress to begin a mass inoculation.

The $137-million program began in early October but within days reports emerged that the vaccine appeared to increase the risk for Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerves causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can cause symptoms that last for as little as a few weeks or go on for several months. Most people recover fully from GBS but some people have nerve damage that does not go away. In rare cases, people have died of GBS, usually from not being able to breathe due to the weakness of their breathing muscles.

The government suspended the program on Dec. 16 with increasing concern from reports saying the vaccine was touching off neurological problems, especially Guillain-Barre syndrome. The program inoculated 40 million people, almost 25% of the population, who waited in long lines at schools and clinics for the flu that never came.

More than 500 people are thought to have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving the vaccine; 25 died. No one completely understands the causes of GBS, but the condition can develop after a bout with infection or following surgery or vaccination. The federal government paid millions in damages to people or their families.

Since 1976, many studies have been done to see if other flu vaccines may cause GBS. According to the CDC, in most studies, no link was found between the flu vaccine and GBS. However, two studies did suggest that about 1 more person out of 1 million people vaccinated with the seasonal flu vaccine may develop GBS. This continues to be studied. For the most part, the chance of getting very ill from flu is far higher than the chance of getting GBS after getting the flu vaccine, according to the CDC.

Vaccine Reaction and GBS Symptoms

According to the Vaccine Injury Table, the time it takes for GBS symptoms to manifest after an adverse reaction to a flu shot varies between patients. Generally, the first reaction occurs within 3 to 42 days. The GBS symptoms may manifest differently, depending on the patient. In most cases, the initial indicators of GBS are pain in the arms, legs, hands, and feet. It starts in the limb’s extremities and works upwards over time. Tingling and weakness in the legs may also occur, gradually spreading to the upper body. As it worsens, GBS symptoms intensify, including:

  • Difficulty walking, maintaining balance, breathing, bladder control, and bowel movements.
  • Loss of reflexes or eye and facial control
  • Abrupt changes in blood pressure and heart rate

People affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome may first notice weakness and/or tingling in their fingers and toes. About 10% of the time, the sensation begins in the arms and/or face. Other symptoms may include:

  • Aching or cramping pain that may get worse at night
  • Back pain
  • Heart and blood pressure fluctuations
  • Inability to climb stairs
  • Inability to move one’s eyes
  • Inability to walk
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function
  • “Pins and needles” sensation in the extremities
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Slower-than-usual reflexes
  • Trouble speaking
  • Unsteady walking
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Weakness in the legs

In some cases, tingling spreads throughout the body due to the destruction of nerve cells, and if left untreated it may cause paralysis. Signs that Guillain-Barre symptoms are a medical emergency include:

  • Choking on saliva
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rapidly spreading tingling or weakness
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat on one’s back.
  • Tingling that began in the feet spreading upwards throughout the body.

Individuals who have any of these symptoms should seek emergency medical attention immediately. The risk of severe complications is relatively low, but in extreme cases, death from respiratory distress or heart attack is possible. Although in some people, Guillain-Barre syndrome presents as a medical crisis and may require hospitalization, most people recover from the acute symptoms of the condition, although some continue to experience tingling and weakness in the extremities and/or fatigue.

Recovery generally begins after about 2-4 weeks and may take anywhere from six months to three years. About 5% of patients who have recovered from Guillain-Barre syndrome will experience a relapse. Children seem to be more likely to recover completely than adults. Of all people who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome, about 85% recovery completely with no lingering side effects. The sooner treatment is started, the greater the patient’s chances of complete recovery will be. People affected by Guillain-Barre syndrome may first notice weakness and/or tingling in their fingers and toes. About 10% of the time, the sensation begins in the arms and/or face. Other symptoms may include:

  • Aching or cramping pain that may get worse at night
  • Back pain
  • Heart and blood pressure fluctuations
  • Inability to climb stairs
  • Inability to move one’s eyes
  • Inability to walk
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function
  • “Pins and needles” sensation in the extremities
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Slower-than-usual reflexes
  • Trouble speaking
  • Unsteady walking
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Weakness in the legs

In some cases, tingling spreads throughout the body due to the destruction of nerve cells, and if left untreated it may cause paralysis. Signs that Guillain-Barre symptoms are a medical emergency include:

  • Choking on saliva
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rapidly-spreading tingling or weakness
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat on one’s back
  • Tingling that began in the feet spreading upwards throughout the body

Individuals who have any of these symptoms should seek emergency medical attention immediately. The risk of severe complications is relatively low, but in extreme cases, death from respiratory distress or heart attack is possible. Although in some people, Guillain-Barre syndrome presents as a medical crisis and may require hospitalization, most people recover from the acute symptoms of the condition, although some continue to experience tingling and weakness in the extremities and/or fatigue.

Recovery generally begins after about 2-4 weeks and may take anywhere from six months to three years. About 5% of patients who have recovered from Guillain-Barre syndrome will experience a relapse. Children seem to be more likely to recover completely than adults. Of all people who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome, about 85% recovery completely with no lingering side effects. The sooner treatment is started, the greater the patient’s chances of complete recovery will be.

What to Do After Guillain-Barre Syndrome Diagnosis

If you receive a GBS diagnosis after receiving a flu shot, the most important step is to seek medical assistance. Failure to adhere to treatment usually leads to the condition deteriorating or becoming long-term. Aside from increasing the chances of recovery, treatment is also the first step in building a convincing compensation case under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). Keep records of all medical treatment, including documents that discuss the diagnosis, hospitalization, and ongoing treatments.

It will show a link between the recent vaccination and present condition, which is essential for a successful vaccine compensation claim. After receiving a GBS diagnosis following a flu shot, take time to:

  • Seek medical attention.
  • File a VAERs Report.  VAERS stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. This is a surveillance program that is supervised both by the CDC and the FDA. Essentially, VAERS is used to spot safety issues with vaccines. See our video for a step by step guide on filing a VAERS report.

  • Learn about your rights to Compensation: Seeking compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program differs considerably from lawsuits. It is actually a claims process centered in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters.  A Special Master who is selected to the program for a certain number of years will adjudicate your case. Over three decades, the program has awarded more than $3 billion to victims of vaccine-related injuries or deaths, so the compensation will easily cover legal expenses and other costs.

Mark Sadaka explains the vaccine injury compensation process and how its different in this video.

  • Contact Our Experienced Vaccine Injury Lawyer Team: We have over 15 years of experience in this medical complex field and recovered millions of dollars for our clients.  Increase your chances of fair compensation by working with a qualified vaccine injury attorney. Contact Sadaka Associates when you are ready to get the compensation you deserve.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) Treatment

Medical history and the GBS variant affect a patient’s prognosis and claim. Most GBS patients experience a full recovery within six to twelve months, while about one-third experience residual symptoms (like pain and muscle weakness that can last for three years or more). Shockingly, relapsing (experiencing GBS symptoms again) after recovery is possible. In rare and extreme cases, a patient may have to live with permanent difficulties from the illness, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Paralysis
  • Sensory impairments
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Respiratory dysfunction complications

The recommended way to avoid long-term complications is to seek treatment as quickly as possible. The two most effective forms of treatment for GBS variants are immunoglobulin therapy and plasma exchange therapy. Depending on the patient’s condition, physical therapy and mechanical ventilatory assistance may also be necessary. Treatment for GBS includes steroids and monoclonal antibody treatment. The use of Eculizumab, an autoimmune medication, is also under evaluation as a treatment for GBS with promising results.

FAQs

Can GBS cause my lungs to stop working?

Types of Respiratory Failure Caused by Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Approximate 30% of people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome suffer from respiratory failure and are admitted into the hospital and placed into an intensive care unit (ICU). After they are admitted, they must receive invasive mechanical ventilation. Invasive means that the procedure performed on the patient involved putting a tube into the mouth and directing it through the throat and into the lungs. The advanced weakness of the lungs (the inspiratory and the expiratory muscles) and their proper functioning is what leads to respiratory failure.

Another serious symptom that patients might experience is pulmonary aspiration (also referred to as aspiration pneumonia). When that happens, the patient inhales stomach acids, food or saliva into each lung. Inhaling saliva, food or stomach acids into the lungs allows bacteria to enter and results in serious respiratory complications (like lung disease). Inspiratory muscles help with breathing (getting air into each lung), and expiratory muscles help push the air out of each lung.

Who makes sure that flu vaccines are safe?

 The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) verifies the safety of all vaccines before hospitals apply these to the American public. The CDC performs ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety through the following methods:

  1. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): An early warning system, VAERS, helps the CDC and FDA monitor all problems that occur after vaccinations. If a person experiences a small or complex vaccine side-effect, VAERS records it. Anyone can report symptoms via the platform, including patients, relatives, pharmacists, health care providers, and vaccine manufacturers.
  2. Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD): As a joint effort between the CDC and eight integrated health care organizations, VSD performs ongoing vaccine safety monitoring and research.

What Is VAERS?

VAERS stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. This is a surveillance program that is supervised both by the CDC and the FDA. Essentially, it is used to bring attention swiftly to any problems that may have arisen with the use of vaccines. Primarily, it focuses on the side effects or health issues that were developed after the use of a vaccine. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System was derived due to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act that was issued in 1990.

This Act was written and put into law due to an increasing number of people concerned with the state of vaccines in the 1970s. Many families believed that they had been injured or damaged after receiving certain vaccines and sued those companies which created them. As a means to protect the health and rights of those who regularly choose to become vaccinated against infectious diseases, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was created.

This Act essentially allows those who experienced adverse side effects from the vaccine to sue for reparations. There are additional benefits besides just the protection of individuals under the law, too. It helped to transform the health industry and make it ensure that it was practicing safe measures in the production of their vaccines. It also forced doctors to make those who were receiving vaccines aware of the possible side effects that may occur. Since then, vaccines have become safer.

While they will likely never be 100% safe since everyone’s biology reacts differently to certain medications and treatments, the vaccines used today are typically quite harmless to those who receive them. However, for those who do experience a rare side effect or damage to their health from a vaccine treatment, VAERS and the Act can be used in court to sue.

How VAERS Is Used

Essentially, VAERS is used to keep a close watch on any reports that people have had with vaccines. When a report comes in, scientists research the claim to see if it possible for the vaccine to have performed the action that the report describes. If it is, indeed, a risk then the CDC and FDA will take action. Typically, that vaccine will no longer be allowed to be used or, if the problem arose from a limited number, it may be suggested that those with those specific conditions do not receive the vaccine.

Reporting to VAERS is an excellent way to further advance the safety of vaccines. Scientists cannot improve anything if they are not made aware of the problems that exist. If you believe that you received a side effect from vaccines that has impacted your health, then you should make a report with the VAERS system. You can easily do this online at the CDC website or through the mail. Since an investigation into the claim takes a year, it’s best that you report the problem as soon as possible. The reason for the length of time is so that scientists can research and observe the effects that the vaccine has had in the long-term.

They also usually require your medical files to be released to them, so they can understand what went wrong. The Act can also be used legally to protect your rights and to ensure reparations are made in the event that VAERS and the CDC decide in your favor. You can receive a settlement as a means of reparations for the health risk and injury you endured.

How common is GBS among people who have had flu shots?

In the U.S., reported GBS cases are 80 to 160 cases per week, regardless of the vaccination. The number of GBS cases from flu shots changes yearly. The inconsistency is due to the rarity of flu shot-related cases (only one to two cases per million flu vaccinations).

Is it difficult to file a GBS claim after a flu shot injury?

Getting compensation for Guillain-Barre Syndrome caused by flu vaccination was extremely difficult – the government did not recognize GBS as an injury related to vaccines. GBS was not on the Vaccine Injury Table, which contains the side-effects known to be linked to vaccines. If any vaccine is not on the list, the federal government has stricter requirements for proving eligibility for compensation. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) added GBS for flu shot recipients to the Vaccine Injury Table.

Now that GBS is on the list, injured parties become eligible for compensation by submitting evidence of their diagnosis. They must submit it within the timeframe prescribed for the specific vaccine that caused the illness or injury, which is why seeking assistance from our legal professionals is highly recommended.

Can I sue a vaccine manufacturer?

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act restricts injured parties from suing vaccine makers. The Act offers injured parties a streamlined alternative for seeking compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The NVICP offers a no-cost, no-fault option for receiving compensation for vaccine-related injuries. Unlike a typical personal injury lawsuit, pursuing compensation under the NVICP is less time-consuming. Most cases end amicably if the petitioner provides the required evidence and follows the appropriate procedure. Our experienced vaccine injury lawyer handles your case and can guide you through the process.

How much does it cost to file a claim under the NVICP?

The case duration, legal fees, and other factors affect the cost of seeking compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. After a successful claim, the NVICP will award compensation that covers your expenses and legal fees, which will be different from the sum awarded for your injuries. The distinction means that it is possible to find restitution for your Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) diagnosis at no financial cost to yourself.

What is the statute of limitations for a vaccine-related Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) claim?

The NVICP provides applicants with three years to submit a claim for injuries from a vaccine. The period begins from the day you experience the first symptom of the injury. If a patient dies after receiving the vaccine, the statute of limitations is four years from the first symptom (or two years from the date of death). Petitioners are also now eligible for an eight-year grace period (lookback) within which to file GBS claims if a flu vaccine caused the ailment.

We have recovered millions for people injured by vaccines including, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) vaccine injury

If you or a loved one recently received a GBS diagnosis after a flu shot or other vaccination, get in touch with our experienced legal professionals. Every year, hospitals record several vaccine-related GBS cases, and there are avenues for recourse. Early treatment minimizes the risk of long-term damage from the illness and increases your chances of a speedy recovery. Seeing a doctor also provides evidence that you deserve compensation for your vaccine injury. SadakaFirm helps you navigate the process, filing a claim, and putting together a robust case. Our team has over a decade of experience helping families nationwide seek proper compensation for various vaccine injuries, including GBS.

We have assisted hundreds of people with information, guidance, and professional assistance. Are you the parent or legal guardian of someone injured by a vaccine covered by the VICP? Or the legal representative of an estate of someone whose death was due to a vaccine injury? Let our experienced lawyers assist you. Contact our professionals at SadakaFirm for an initial consultation at 800-810-3457 today. We will assign your case to our trusted injury lawyers for expertise that cover your unique circumstances.

GBS AFTER TD VACCINE

$300,000 + total settlement, including $302,064 lump sum award, for adult male who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after receiving a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine.

GBS AFTER FLU VACCINE

$150,000 + total settlement, including $110,000 lump sum award, for adult female who suffered from a typical Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), and neurogenic bladder after receiving an influenza vaccine.

GBS AFTER TETANUS VACCINE

$305,000 settlement for a 35 year old man from NC who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) as a result of receiving the Tetanus-diphtheria, Td vaccine.

GBS AND CIDP AFTER FLU VACCINE

$5,328,078.77 total settlement which includes life care expenses, payment for lost earnings, and pain and suffering compensation for a 40 year old man from North Carolina who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), as a result of the influenza vaccine.

GBS AND CIDP AFTER FLU VACCINE

$110,000.00 total settlement for a 32 year old woman from Wausau Wyoming who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), as a result of the influenza vaccine.

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