Guillain Barre, the Flu Shot and What You Need to Know About Compensation

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack parts of the nerve cells in the body. While most cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome are treatable, individuals diagnosed with GBS often experience severe pain and weakness, and other symptoms that last for weeks, months or even years, and in a small percentage of cases complications can lead to life-long disabilities or paralysis.

While researchers have not yet determined the exact cause of Guillain-Barre Syndrome and its variants, medical science and federal law both now recognize certain vaccinations as potential triggers for GBS. Each year, numerous patients are diagnosed with vaccine-related GBS; particularly GBS after the flu shot. These individuals often incur substantial losses as a result of their symptoms and treatment. These individuals are entitled to seek financial compensation for their medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering under the federal government’s National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome following a flu shot or other vaccination, it is important to make sure you understand your rights under the VICP. To find out if you are eligible to receive compensation, contact us today for a free consultation.

Vaccines Known to Trigger GBS

The two vaccines most-closely linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome are the tetanus and influenza vaccines. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approve different formulas of the flu shot each year (depending upon the strain or strains that are most prevalent in the United States), there is no single ingredient that has been conclusively linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and cases of flu shot-related GBS have been reported in each of the past several years. With few exceptions the CDC recommends that adults and children ages six months and older receive a flu shot on an annual basis, as the likelihood and risks of becoming ill with the flu without a vaccination are far greater than the risk of being diagnosed with GBS.

The CDC recommends vaccination against tetanus for adults and children of all ages, with childhood vaccination schedules typically beginning at two months of age. The tetanus vaccine is commonly combined with the vaccines for diphtheria and pertussis, and may be labeled as:

  • DT
  • DTaP
  • DTP
  • Td
  • Tdap

Variants of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While Guillain-Barre Syndrome is one specific type of autoimmune disease, the term is also commonly used to refer to a broad range of diseases that are in fact different variants of GBS. These variants, which are also linked to the flu shot and tetanus vaccinations, include:

  • Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (AIDP)
  • Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy (AMAN)
  • Acute Motor Sensory Axonal Neuropathy (AMSAN)
  • Acute Panautonomic Neuropathy
  • Bickerstaff’s Brainstem Encephalitis (BBE)
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Miller Fisher Syndrome (MFS)
  • Pharyngeal-Cervical-Brachial Variant

Symptoms of GBS and its Variants

While each of these variants has certain unique characteristics, there are a number of symptoms that are common across the spectrum of vaccine-related GBS. In most cases, the early warning signs of GBS are:

  • Pain in the arms, legs, hands and feet that begins distally (far away) and ascends upward
  • Tingling and weakness that start in the legs and spread into the upper body

As the symptoms of GBS progress, individuals may also experience:

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

Prognosis for Guillain Barre Syndrome After the Flu Shot

Although an individual’s prognosis will depend upon his or her personal medical history and the specific variant of GBS diagnosed, in most cases, many individuals experience a full and complete recovery from Guillain Barre Syndrome and the flu shot. Most patients fully recover within six to 12 months, although approximately one-third of GBS patients will experience residual symptoms (most commonly pain and muscle weakness) for three years or longer. Having experienced GBS can also increase one’s chances of being diagnosed with GBS again in the future. This is known as a “relapse”, and in some cases patients can experience long-term or permanent complications including:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Chronic pain
  • Complications from respiratory dysfunction
  • Sensory abnormalities or impairments
  • Paralysis

What to Do if You are Concerned about GBS and Flu Vaccines

Anyone who is concerned about the connection between Guillain Barre and flu shots or other vaccination should seek treatment from their doctor immediately. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can limit recovery time and reduce the chances of facing long-term complications. It is also important to learn about your rights under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The financial and emotional costs of vaccine-related GBS can create enormous burdens for patients and their families, and the VICP provides a no-cost, no-fault option for vaccine recipients to secure the financial resources they need. For more information about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, we encourage you to visit the links below:

Guillain Barre and the Flu Shot: FAQs

What are the treatment options for Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Currently, the two most common forms of treatment for GBS and its variants are plasmapheresis (plasma exchange therapy) and immunoglobulin therapy. These forms of treatment are generally considered equally effective in treating GBS. Physical therapy, mechanical ventilatory assistance and other forms of intervention have proven effective for some patients as well, and researchers have begun to explore the autoimmune medication Eculizumab as a possible third primary treatment option for GBS.

How does the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) work for vaccine recipients diagnosed with GBS?

Until recently, obtaining compensation for Guillain Barre Syndrome was more difficult than obtaining compensation for other common vaccine-related illnesses and injuries. This is because GBS was previously excluded from the Vaccine Injury Table – a resource maintained by the federal government that identifies illnesses and injuries with known links to certain vaccinations. The link between vaccinations and these “on-table” injuries is so well-recognized that individuals diagnosed with on-table injuries can establish their eligibility simply by submitting evidence that they were diagnosed within a prescribed timeframe following their receipt of a covered vaccination.

However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) made GBS an on-table vaccine illness in 2017 for flu shot recipients. As a result, individuals diagnosed with GBS (including any GBS variant) within 42 days of receiving a flu shot can now secure financial compensation without the need to prove that their illness is the cause of their vaccination. While GBS is not an “on-table” injury for tetanus, an experienced vaccine attorney can present credible medical evidence linking the two.

What are the costs associated with filing a GBS vaccine injury claim under the VICP?

Filing a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is unlike filing a traditional personal injury lawsuit. Individuals in vaccine claims do not sue the vaccine manufacturer or vaccine administrator. Instead, petitioners file a claim with the federal government; and, while government attorneys represent the DHHS in order to protect the funds allocated to the program, VICP claims are generally resolved amicably and – in most cases – without a trial.

The VICP is also unique because it covers claimants’ costs and legal fees separately from their awards of financial compensation. This means that legal fees are not deducted from one’s financial recovery. As a result, in most cases, individuals diagnosed with GBS can secure financial compensation through the VICP at no financial cost to them.

How long do I have to file a VICP claim after receiving a GBS diagnosis?

The statute of limitations for GBS claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is three years from the first symptom or other manifestation the illness. In cases involving wrongful death, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death and four years from the first symptom or manifestation. However, petitioners now have an 8-year lookback within which to file claims of GBS that resulted following a flu vaccine. 

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) Case Results: GBS and Flu Vaccine

in helping numerous clients secure financial compensation for flu shot and tetanus vaccine-related Guillain-Barre Syndrome both before and after the recent changes to the Vaccine Injury Table. Some of our recent case results include:

What to Do If Diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome Following a Flu Shot or Other Vaccination

If you believe that you may have been diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome from a flu shot, here are some of the steps that should be taken in order to seek and obtain compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:

1. Follow Your Doctor’s Treatment Plan and Keep Your Records.

Due to the risks associated with GBS and CIPD, it is important that patients follow their doctor’s medical advice and adhere to all prescribed treatments and therapies.

In order to support a claim for vaccine compensation, medical evidence linking your condition to your recent vaccination will be required. In order to help your vaccine attorney to support a claim for compensation, it is important that you collect and maintain medical records discussing your diagnosis, hospitalization, as well as any ongoing treatments such as neurology appointments, EMG studies, physical and/or occupational therapy sessions.  These records will be used by your vaccine attorney to help establish your entitlement to compensation as well as the extent of your physical condition and level of pain and suffering.

2. Learn About Your Rights Under the VICP.

Filing a claim under the VICP is unlike the filing of any other type of lawsuit. The VICP removes many of the burdens involved in traditional tort litigation against vaccine manufacturers and vaccine administrators.  Vaccine claims are adjudicated by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters, and over the past thirty years, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out more than $3 billion in financial compensation to individuals living with vaccine-related injuries or deaths. In addition, because the Vaccine Program covers the cost of all reasonable attorneys’ fees, individuals can hire an experienced vaccine attorney at no financial cost to them.

3. Speak with a Lawyer Experienced in GBS Vaccine Injury Claims.

Finally, if you would like to obtain more information on whether filing a vaccine lawsuit is right for you, contact the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights under the VICP. Because claims must be filed within three years of the first onset of symptoms or, in cases of vaccine-related deaths, within two years of the date of death, it is important not to delay seeking legal help for your vaccine injury claim.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Vaccine Attorney Leah V. Durant

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome following a flu shot or other vaccination, contact the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with attorney Leah V. Durant about your case in confidence, please call (202) 800-1711 or request an appointment online today.

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