Vaccines save millions of lives every year, but people who have a bad reaction to vaccination may suffer lifelong complications. Children are the most common victims of serious vaccine injuries such as encephalopathy and encephalitis that can cause permanent damage from brain inflammation. While these cases are extremely rare, vaccine-related brain damage can cause difficulties for children and adults.
What Are Encephalitis and Encephalopathy?
Encephalitis and encephalopathy both affect the brain, but they’re two distinct conditions. Encephalitis happens due to brain inflammation, often from a viral infection like the West Nile or herpes simplex virus.
On the other hand, encephalopathy refers to permanent or temporary brain damage, disease, or disorder. Overtime, encephalitis can cause encephalopathy.
Which vaccines are known to cause brain damage?
It is generally acknowledged that vaccines do have the ability to cause brain damage to varying degrees in some patients. The onset of neurological symptoms after immunization, particularly changes to your mental state and seizures, has been widely recognized—and even the federal government offers compensation for cases of vaccine encephalopathy.
The United States federal government created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to compensate people injured by vaccines. On the Vaccine Injury Table, the VICP has recognized that the following two vaccines can cause encephalitis or encephalopathy in rare cases:
- Any vaccines containing pertussis (DTaP, TDaP, P, and DTP-Hib vaccinations).
- Any vaccines containing mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR, MMRV, and MM vaccinations).
If you were suffered a brain injury from a different vaccine, there is still hope. You can file a petition for compensation with the VICP. However, you and your attorney will have to use your medical records to prove that the vaccine triggered the reaction.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis caused by a vaccine?
Most cases of encephalitis (brain inflammation) happen due to a viral or bacterial infection. In medical terms, this condition is often called infectious encephalitis or viral encephalitis.
However, certain vaccines can also trigger encephalitis. Children and adults with vaccine-related encephalitis will typically experience reactions within two weeks after the date of immunization.
In most cases, symptoms will only last a few days. However, parents should monitor their children closely after vaccination and report any symptoms to a healthcare provider to see if any further treatment is needed.
Common signs of vaccine-induced encephalitis include:
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms that develop within hours or days after receiving a vaccine
- Signs of neurological dysfunction
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in muscles
- Problems with coordination
- Altered level of consciousnesses
Encephalitis symptoms from the pertussis vaccine will appear no more than 72 hours after the immunization. For the MMR vaccine, your symptoms will show between 5-15 days after the vaccination. If you or your child has any of these encephalitis symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately.
What are the signs of vaccine-induced encephalopathy?
Most of the time, encephalopathy is caused by head trauma or a brain tumor. However, in rare cases, both the MMR and pertussis vaccines can cause brain damage in children and adults.
For children younger than 18 months old, watch out for these symptoms and signs of acute encephalopathy after receiving these vaccinations:
- Without a seizure, signs of a decreased level of consciousness that lasts more than 24 hours;
- Following a seizure, signs of a decreased level of consciousness that lasts more than 24 hours that cannot be attributed to a postical state from a seizure or medication
Symptoms of an altered level of consciousness in young children include:
- Extreme irritability for more than 3 hours
- Extreme sleepiness or difficulty waking up
- Poor muscle tone
- Lack of response to touch or voice
- Vacant or blank stare
For people older than 18 months, watch out for the following encephalopathy symptoms:
- A significant change in mental status that lasts for more than 24 hours and is not caused by medication
- Significantly decreased level of consciousness, independent of a seizure or medication side effects
- Signs of a decreased level of consciousness include confusion, memory loss, personality changes, trouble thinking clearly or focusing, and problems with coordination.
- Seizure associated with a loss of consciousness
Acute encephalopathy symptoms from the pertussis vaccine appear within 72 hours after vaccination. When this condition is caused by the MMR vaccine, symptoms will show 5-15 days after the immunization.
What are the treatment options for encephalitis and encephalopathy?
To diagnosis encephalitis and encephalopathy properly, doctors will have patients undergo various tests, including:
- Brain imaging (MRI or CT scan)
- Spinal tap (Lumbar puncture)
- Electroencepholgram (EEG)
- Blood tests
- Brain biopsy
Treatment options for these conditions are very similar. If you have mild brain inflammation, your doctor will likely recommend rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and drinking plenty of fluids.
However, if you have severe encephalitis, you may need the following treatment to recover according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Medications to stop seizures
- IV-fluid therapy
- Anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce inflammation in the brain
- Breathing assistance
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
Getting Compensation for Chronic Encephalopathy After Vaccination
If encephalitis symptoms last more than 6 months after immunization, patients may have chronic encephalopathy. People affected by this vaccine injury will show a permanent change in mental or neurological status. These changes include personality changes, cognitive issues, memory loss, and behavioral changes.
If someone has suffered a severe injury after vaccination, there is hope. You can get compensation for vaccine injuries through the federal government’s National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
The VICP allows people to collect payment without filing a lawsuit against their doctors or pharmaceutical companies.
If your child or loved one was injured after receiving a vaccine listed on the Vaccine Injury Table, you may be eligible for compensation.
For serious brain injuries, the VICP may award you compensation for any medical costs, future disability, loss of income, and pain and suffering caused by the injury. The federal government also pays your attorney for their fees and time spent on your case.
Our Vaccine Injury Attorneys Ready to Fight for You
The key to winning your vaccine injury case is the tenacity of your injury attorney. We can gather evidence on your behalf and fight aggressively to prove that your child’s encephalitis was a result of vaccine administration.
Call us today at (312) 578-9501 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also take a moment to fill out our online contact form at the bottom of the page.
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