Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis

H1N1 vaccineToday, the British Medical Journal published a retrospective study, by Elizabeth Miller, that analyzes the risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents in England who received the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine (Pandemrix) from October 2009 through mid-2010. This study followed up on the observations seen in Finland and other countries that there was some increased risk of narcolepsy in children a few months after receiving the vaccine.

As background, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Individuals with narcolepsy often experience daytime sleep patterns, but the disorder should not be confused with insomnia. It is not caused by a mental illness or psychological problems. It is most likely affected by a number of genetic mutations and abnormalities that affect specific biologic factors in the brain, combined with an environmental trigger during the brain’s development, such as a virus. It may also be a result of an autoimmune disorder. At this time, there is no cure for narcolepsy, but it can be successfully treated by medications and other therapies.

Roughly 70% of individuals who have narcolepsy have a comorbidity of cataplexy,  a sudden and transient episode of loss of muscle tone, often triggered by strong emotions.  Continue reading “Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis”