Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) and its link to the Flu Shot / Vaccination

Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a clinical neuromuscular syndrome that can cause paralysis (temporarily and sometimes permanently) in individuals who receive the influenza / flu vaccination. Generally, GBS is characterized by weakness and numbness. Some individuals complain of a tingling sensation in the legs and arms with minor to major loss of movement in the legs, arms, upper body, and face. Some people will show a contortion of the face from GBS similar to the physical drooping from a stroke. GBS usually starts as a ascending paralysis characterized by weakness in the legs, moving its way up to the upper limbs and face with a loss of deep tendon reflexes.

For the most part, Guillain Barre Syndrome is triggered by an upper respiratory or gastrointestinal infection although the etiology (cause) of GBS is not exactly known. It can be a potentially deadly disorder and affects up to 2 people per 100,000. Unfortunately GBS has no known cure although several treatments can alleviate symptoms and lower the length of the disorder. For the most part, people recover fully from severe cases of GBS.


There is great debate in the vaccine community about the link between the flu vaccination and Guillain Barre Syndrome. The Vaccine Court for the most part has accepted the theory that the influenza vaccination can replace upper respiratory or gastrointestinal infection as the triggering factor for GBS and the Miller Fischer variant of GBS.

When filing a vaccine compensation claim, a GBS flu vaccine attorney will investigate the presence of any antecedent upper respiratory or gastrointestinal infection within six (6) weeks prior to symptom onset. Most individuals do report experiencing some form of infectious illness prior to developing Guillain Barre Syndrome. Almost 70% of GBS cases are associated with some prior acute infection by various bacterial viruses. In a flu GBS case, the influenza vaccine activates the immune system against components of the nervous system similar to activation by viral or bacterial infection in non-vaccinated GBS cases. Many experts believe that the most common mechanism for development of Guillain Barre Syndrome is molecular mimicry in which the body produces cross-reactive immune responses.

There are certain variations of GBS, the most prominent of which is known as the Miller Fisher variant. Patients with the Miller Fisher syndrome typically project symptoms of ataxia (gross lack of coordination of muscle movements), ascending numbness, and facial palsy and these symptoms can very well occur after taking the flu vaccine. A Guillain Barre injury lawyer will look at the possibility of any infections prior to the onset of Miller Fisher syndrome. Many GBS patients will develop a disabling chronic fatigue syndrome and sensitivity to heat that may become permanent. The disabling fatigue can be particularly troublesome by interfering with activities of daily living and occupational duties. A vaccine compensation lawyer can make the argument that a person whose occupation is impaired by the fatigue syndrome deserves economic damages in addition to pain and suffering.

Sometimes in filing a vaccine compensation claim , the government attorneys will try to challenge a Miller Fisher claim, claiming that there are differences between Miller Fischer and general GBS. An expert neurologist will be able to dispel this argument by showing there is no fundamental difference between the pathogenesis (development of the disease) of Guillain Barre Syndrome and the Miller Fisher variant. Both disorders share similar patterns of evolution, recovery, and symptom characteristics.

In our next blog entry, we will discuss more in detail how the influenza vaccination causes Guillain Barre Syndrome. If you suspect your GBS is linked to the flu shot, contact a flu shot vaccine injury attorney as soon as possible. There is no need to go a local attorney because a GBS flu injury firm can handle cases nationwide.

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