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Docs to Watch for Guillain-Barré After H1N1 Vaccine

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Neurologists should be on the lookout for any signs of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in people vaccinated against H1N1 swine flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Neurology announced Monday.

Experts do not expect the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to increase risk of the rare disorder, but are acting out "an abundance of caution," according to a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. Because of its association with the 1976 swine flu vaccine, GBS could be of greater concern with any pandemic vaccine, the release said.

"The active participation of neurologists is going to be critical for monitoring for any possible increase in GBS following 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccination," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, who is directing the AAN effort. The request comes as part of the CDC's national vaccine safety monitoring campaign.

The H1N1 vaccine is still in production. Officials expect that vaccination of high-risk groups -- including health-care workers, infants, children and young adults ages 6 months through 24 years, pregnant women and adults with underlying health conditions -- will start this fall.

In GBS, the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, causing tingling and weakness in the extremities. It is usually, but not always, treatable.

Neurologists and other health-care professionals should use the CDC and FDA Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System to report any post-vaccination adverse events, the announcement said.

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EmpowHER Guest

What if you have already had GBS? I have had it and If I get this vaccine, will my risk be higher to get GBS again?

September 16, 2009 - 11:32am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi, Anon,

Here's the CDC's fact sheet on the H1N1 swine flu shot and GBS:


And here's their page of instructions for special populations:


Nowhere in this information do they speak to those who have had GBS in the past. They do say, however, that they expect the incidence to be similar to that of other seasonal flu vaccinations. Be sure that your doctor knows that you had GBS and that she or he believes the risk of a recurrence is lesser than the risk of the flu.

September 16, 2009 - 6:34pm
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