Shingles Vaccine Side Effects – Bell’s Palsy

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Zostavax, a single dose vaccine for the prevention of shingles, was introduced to the market by Merck in 2006. The shingles vaccine is a weak, live version of the varicella-zoster virus. Once brought to the marketplace, reports began to emerge involving dangerous side effect occurring within 6 months of the Zostavax vaccine injection.

Many patients who were given Zostavax developed Ramsay-Hunt syndrome, a variant of Bell’s Palsy, is caused by the herpes zoster virus which is the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.


Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy/Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome

shingles vaccine side effects
If you or a loved one has contracted Bell’s Palsy and/or Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome due to being given the shingles vaccine Zostavax, call Walton Telken today.

Normally, the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy will begin rather gradually, usually peaking in 48 hours. Some of the early symptoms include:

  • Changes in the sensation in a portion of your face
  • Pain in and around your ear area
  • Increased and/or decreased hearing
  • Impaired taste.

As the Bell’s Palsy progresses you may experience:

  • Trouble closing your mouth on one side
  • Trouble closing your eye on one side
  • Unable to hold food in your mouth
  • Eyes watering more than usual.


Diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy/Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Your doctor can generally diagnose Bell’s Palsy through a physical examination. They will look for such things as weakness in the muscles of your face.  They may also ask you to smile or whistle to look for any differences between the two sides of your face.

They may ask you if you are having trouble with numbness or weakness in any other parts of your body or if you are having difficulty walking. Your doctor may examine you for any signs of a shingles rash on your face and ears.

It’s important that you tell your doctor if you’ve received the Zostavax shingles vaccine as that may assist them with your diagnosis.


Treatment for Bell’s Palsy/Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome

If your symptoms are relatively mild, no treatment may be necessary, however, your doctor may prescribe prednisone, which is a corticosteroid to reduce the inflammation and swelling in the nerves that help to decrease your pain.  In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a combination of prednisone and an anti-herpes virus drug such as acyclovir or valacyclovir which are oral drugs that help attack the virus.


Duration of Bell’s Palsy/Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome

In many cases, your symptoms may start to improve within two weeks, and you will probably be back to normal within six months. In extremely rare cases, the symptoms don’t go away completely, and you may have a permanent facial weakness.

Eighty-five percent of patients diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy/Ramsay-Hunt syndrome recover within a few months, and children almost always completely recover.

Your taste will return before your facial strength, and normally if your sense of taste returns within 7-10 days you will recover completely.  It’s also more likely you will recover if your facial muscles were not completely paralyzed at the most severe point in your illness.

Factors that may be associated with a poorer outlook for recovery include:

  • A higher degree of impairment
  • A longer time before your symptoms improve
  • If you’re an older person
  • If you experience severe pain in and around your ear

The prognosis for Ramsay-Hunt syndrome is not as good as it is for Bell’s Palsy.


Lawsuits Due To Bell’s Palsy Facial Paralysis from Zostavax

There’s been a growing number of lawsuits filed across the country related to severe injuries from the shingles vaccine, Zostavax. Each of these lawsuits is raising similar allegations that Merck, the manufacturer of Zostavax, used a live strain of the varicella zoster virus that was not weakened sufficiently to prevent reactivation of the virus.  This means that instead of the body developing the proper immune response, the live virus combined with the old virus.

In light of the similar questions of fact and law presented in the Zostavax lawsuits filed in federal court, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to centralize all the Zostavax shingles cases before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. There are additional cases filed in California and New Jersey.

If you or a loved one has contracted Bell’s Palsy and/or Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome due to being given the shingles vaccine Zostavax, you should contact an experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable attorney such as Walton Telken to have your case evaluated.

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