Docs Warned to Watch for Brain Disease Link to Flu Vaccine

UK officials cite concern over 1976 vaccinations
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 16, 2009 6:08 AM CDT
People wear masks as they stand outside the Houses of Parliament in London in May.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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(Newser) – British officials have alerted neurologists to watch out for any surge of cases of a deadly brain disease after a massive swine flu vaccination program begins, reports the Telegraph. A 1976 US swine flu vaccine was followed by an eight-fold increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which killed 25 people at the time, while only one died of swine flu, warns a letter to the doctors. The vaccines will be given to some 13 million people in Britain.

“The vaccines used to combat an expected swine influenza pandemic in 1976 were shown to be associated with GBS and were withdrawn from use,” states the letter. “GBS has been identified as a condition needing enhanced surveillance when the swine flu vaccines are rolled out.” A health official said some experts expect to see a link between Guillain-Barré syndrome and the flu itself, not the vaccine.