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Colds and flu

13 March 2013

Flu jab linked to nervous disorder risk

Vaccination against H1N1 "swine" flu carried a small but tolerable risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that can cause muscle weakness or temporary paralysis, a study.

Vaccination in the United States against H1N1 "swine" flu, which swept the world in 2009-10, carried a small but tolerable risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that can cause muscle weakness or temporary paralysis, a study published on Wednesday said.

US researchers scanned a database of side effects from the campaign in which 23 million Americans were inoculated with a so-called monovalent inactivated vaccine against H1N1.

They recorded 77 cases of Guillain-Barre that occurred within three months of a vaccination.

According to investigations in Finland, Sweden and England, Pandemrix increased the risk of narcolepsy, a disorder that causes extreme drowsiness, among teenagers and young people, although the extent of the problem is unclear.

It leapt into the headlines in 1976, when a campaign to vaccinate the US population against a new flu strain was stalled by contentions - later contested - that the jab led to an increase in cases of this otherwise rare auto-immune disorder.

 

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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