Guillain-Barre syndrome suspected in flu-shot woman

Health authorities are investigating whether a 67-year-old woman, critically ill after getting a swine flu vaccination, is another case of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The woman received the shot on December 23 and complained of general weakness last Tuesday. She developed fever, headache and vomiting on Friday and was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital that day, a spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection said. Yesterday, she was in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.

The centre said there was not enough evidence to make a definitive diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome, but an expert group would investigate if further evidence of the syndrome came to light.

'Further investigations are being conducted to determine whether she has sepsis, autonomic neuropathy, the syndrome or other conditions,' the spokesman said.

Earlier yesterday, centre controller Dr Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said the case of a 66-year-old woman, who died at home on Sunday after having a shot on Christmas Eve, was not related to the vaccine.

A 58-year-old doctor was confirmed as having Guillain-Barre syndrome last week, although it remained unclear whether the vaccine caused it.


The government also said yesterday it was considering extending the free swine flu vaccination programme to people outside high-risk groups.

The vaccination rate levelled off at above 6 per cent last week following reports that the shots may be connected to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare side effect that can damage the nervous system.

As of 1pm yesterday, the total vaccination rate stood at 6.69 per cent of people in high-risk groups, after 2,765 were inoculated over the weekend. Tsang repeated calls for people in high-risk groups to receive the injections.

'Since the vaccination programme began on December 21, we have had 30 severe cases of swine flu and six deaths,' he said. 'That is much more than the number of side effects reported.'


The government ordered three million doses of vaccine from Sanofi-Aventis. Half a million arrived last month, and the rest are expected to arrive in one shipment this month.

Hong Kong Doctors Union president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said many private doctors wanted to return unused vaccine to the government, as the number of people getting vaccinated at private clinics had dropped by almost 90 per cent.


Meanwhile, a 52-year-old man with end-stage kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes became the city's 58th death from swine flu yesterday. He was admitted to hospital on December 17 and confirmed to have swine flu two days later.