Encephalitis Triggered by a Vaccine

Reviewed By Diana Stadelnikas, Vaccine Injury Attorney

What is Encephalitis (Encephalopathy)?

Encephalitis (en-sef-uh-LIE-tis), also known as encephalopathy, is a swelling of the brain. 

Encephalopathy most is commonly triggered after a person contracts certain viruses or bacterias. If the virus or bacteria ends up traveling to the spinal cord or brain, it causes inflammation. This inflammation produces the symptoms of encephalitis.

There are a number of other less common triggers to encephalopathy, including vaccine injury.

What Vaccines have been Linked to Encephalitis?

For the most part, vaccines are safe procedures that prevent communities from suffering outbreaks of deadly diseases like tuberculosis, measles and influenza.  However, in rare cases, patients suffer injuries like secondary encephalitis as a side-effect of a vaccine.

There have been more than 1,100 cases of encephalitis (including brain stem encephalitis) reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

mctlaw recently represented a client in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) who suffered from encephalitis after the MMR vaccine. The court awarded the client a $101 million settlement.  According to reports published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the following vaccines have been linked to encephalitis.

  • MMR vaccine – Measles Mumps and Rubella
  • DTP or DTaP vaccine – Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (whooping cough). 
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine 

Some of these vaccines have also been associated with conditions similar to secondary encephalitis, such as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and measles inclusion body encephalitis.  ADEM is a brief but intense inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Encephalopathy After a Vaccination?

There is a statute of limitations to file a claim, so don’t wait to find out if you qualify for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. We may be able to help if you got a vaccination between 2017 and 2020.

Primary vs. Secondary Encephalitis

There are two types of encephalitis: primary and secondary. Primary encephalitis occurs when a virus attacks the brain and spinal cord directly. In the secondary form, an infection starts in some part of the body, and then travels to your brain. Reports say secondary encephalitis can be a side-effect of certain vaccines.

Who is at Risk of Contracting Encephalitis?

Anybody can develop primary or secondary encephalitis. However, certain factors have been shown to increase the risk.  For example: age, having a compromised immune system, the time of year and location all increase risk.  Additionally, anyone who suffered a viral infection.

What are the Symptoms of Encephalopathy in Adults and Children?

Symptoms of encephalitis depend on the area of the brain affected, the cause, the age of the patient, and the over all severity of the case.  Some people experience no symptoms and others only experience flu-like symptoms. However, those with the most severe cases experience seizures and personality changes. Encephalitis is a serious disease that can be fatal if not treated, so you should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you have it.

Some of the most common victims of encephalitis are children and infants under the age of 1. Sometimes, young children suffering from ecephalopathy develop unique symptoms in addition to the ones listed above.  Children’s encephalitis symptoms include swelling in the soft spots of a baby’s head, irritability, loss of appetite, stiffness in body, vomiting, and nausea.

Most Common, Flu-like Symptoms of Encephalitis:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Achy Muscles and Joints
  • Headache
  • Weakness

More Severe Symptoms of Encephalitis:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of feeling in parts of the face
  • Loss of feeling in part of the body
  • Inability to move certain muscles in the face or body
  • Weakness
  • Trouble speaking and/or hearing
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness or cognitive ability
  • Severe headaches

Treatments for Encephalitis

Encephalitis is treatable and curable. The first step to treating encephalitis is receiving a diagnosis. An early diagnosis is key to ensuring a good outcome. Typically, diagnosis starts with a physical examination by your doctor and a discussion of your medical history, including vaccine history. Diagnosing encephalitis may require any or all of the following procedures:

  • MRI or CT scan
  • Spinal tap
  • Blood or urine exams
  • Brain biopsies

After the initial diagnosis, treatment for uncomplicated cases of encephalitis usually includes bed rest, fluids, and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Tylenol.

Additional medications may be prescribed to treat any underlying infection, depending on the cause of encephalitis.

For more severe cases of encephalitis, patients may require hospitalization, breathing assistance, intravenous fluids, corticosteroids, and follow-up therapies (such as physical therapy and speech therapy).

Common Vaccine Injuries and Reactions

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