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Flu Vaccine Linked to Narcolepsy

In a shocking medical development, around 800 children in Sweden and other European countries have developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder with symptoms such as sudden onset of sleep during the day and wakeful periods of troubled breathing and paralysis at night. While the cluster epidemic on its own is troubling, what is truly terrible is the suspected cause—their immunization with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2009.

In addition to the Swedish cases Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy onsets, as well; researchers from a pending British study told Reuters it will also reveal a connection between those cases and the H1N1 vaccine.

As these children struggle to deal with their terrible disease, the situation has developed into what Swedish health officials call a "medical tragedy." The European drug regulator has since banned the vaccine for use in anyone under the age of 20, albeit too late for these suffering children. GSK’s chief medical officer in its vaccines division, Norman Begg, says his firm views the issue extremely seriously and is "absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this", but does not acknowledge a definitive link between the vaccine and the disease cluster.

On the other hand, Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world's leading experts on narcolepsy, says, "There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever that (the vaccine) increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries—and probably in most countries.”

By final counts, the GSK shot was given to over 30 million people in 47 countries during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu out break. Because it contains a booster, it was banned from use in the United States .

In addition to sudden bouts of daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy brings nightmares, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and episodes of cataplexy—a sudden loss of muscle strength brought on by strong emotion. In normal occurrences, narcolepsy is estimated to affect between 200 and 500 people per million; it is an incurable condition, and its cause is still unknown.