SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — It’s a neurological disorder called ADEM, or Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis.
The symptoms are severe, and — in rare cases — it’s been linked to the flu shot.
But is it worth avoiding the vaccine, especially when the flu is this widespread? The answer from doctors is a firm ‘no.’
“The whole disorder is very uncommon, we only see it once or twice a year,” says Daniel Skiest, Chief of Infectious Medicine at Baystate Health.
Right now, most people are acutely aware of how quickly the flu is spreading.
“Well, this is actually the first year I actually had the flu shot and it seems to be working well for me, because I’m a paramedic,” says Mike DeFilipo of Agawam. “I work on an ambulance, I’ve brought probably 100 people to the hospital with the flu.”
DeFilipo says, when he considers how likely he could contract the flu, developing ADEM isn’t much of a concern.
Dr. Skiest echoes that sentiment.
“It’s a very rare disorder, usually caused from a viral infection — very rarely from a vaccine — and basically it can effect the central nervous systems of the brain,” says Skiest.
Lesions develop, producing headaches, fevers and sometimes seizures. Symptoms can be similar to multiple sclerosis, but patients can make a full recovery.
Skiest says, bottom line, the benefits of the flu shot far outweigh the risks.
“It’s safe, very safe, and it works most of the time,” says Skiest. “It can really save your life because people die from the flu every year — people forget or they think, ‘Oh, I just get the flu and I feel sick.’”
In fact, for the week ending on January 19, 2013, the flu was responsible for one in every 10 deaths, according to the CDC.
The chance of contracting ADEM is less than one in 100,000.