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Hannah Poling and Mitochondrial Disorder

Hannah was vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, varicella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and Haemophilus inflluenzae during one doctor’s visit at age 18 months. At that time, thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative), which some experts say may cause or contribute to autism, was still being used in children’s vaccines.

Severe reaction to Vaccine's

Soon after receiving the vaccines, Hannah stopped eating, developed high fevers, began having screaming fits, and showed signs of autism. Her parents then filed an autism claim in federal vaccine court.

A factor that compounds this situation is the fact that Hannah has a mitochondrial disorder, in which her basic cell metabolism dysfunctions. Symptoms of this disorder can range from muscle weakness to diabetes, developmental delays, cardiac or liver disease, swallowing problems, poor growth, muscle pain, loss of motor control, and susceptibility to infection.

According to a Time magazine article from 2008, “There are no scientific studies documenting that childhood vaccinations cause mitochondrial diseases or worsen mitochondrial disease symptoms,” as stated by the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. Yet this court decision acknowledges Hannah’s injuries and that the vaccines aggravated an unknown mitochondrial disorder that did not “cause” her autism, but “resulted” in it.

Approximately 1,000 to 4,000 children are born with a mitochondrial disease each year in the United States. There are dozens of different types of mitochondrial disease, including Alpers disease, Barth syndrome, carnitine deficiency, and Pearson syndrome. These diseases mainly affect children, but adults can develop these diseases as well.

In 2008, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation released a statement in response to the Poling case, noting that “There are no scientific studies documenting that childhood vaccinations cause mitochondrial diseases or worsen mitochondrial disease symptoms.” The court in this case decided that Hannah’s underlying disease increased her risk of injury from the vaccinations.

While Hannah Poling’s family will receive more than $1.5 million compensation for their daughter’s care, it cannot reverse the damage that has been done. This case raises many questions, one of which is how many other Hannahs are out there. One thing we do know is that nearly 5,000 families of children with autism have filed claims for compensation through the federal government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

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