Flu Raises Risk of Heart Attack
After a review of 39 studies from the past 75 years, British researchers report that the influenza virus can trigger a heart attack and may account for the 35 to 50 percent rise in heart attack deaths during the flu season. The findings were published this week in the October edition of Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Each year in the United States about 5-20% of the population gets seasonal influenza. On average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and about 36,000 people die. The number of patients who are expected to come in contact with influenza is expected to be higher than usual this year because of the swine flu pandemic.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend that all individuals with cardiovascular disease, or those with an increased risk from a health conditions such as diabetes, receive the annual influenza vaccination. This year, patients at risk are also encouraged to receive the H1N1 flu shot.
Myocardial infarction, the medical term for heart attack, is more likely when the immune system is weakened. During the flu, the lungs are inflamed, causing respiratory distress. In addition, the flu virus actually stresses the cardiovascular system by the swelling of the heart or the coronary arteries, which may lead to clots being released into the heart muscle. Only about one-third of heart patients in the United States regularly get vaccinated against influenza.
There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B and C. Seasonal flu is typically either A or B, as C-type infections cause only mild symptoms. This year’s regular vaccine will provide protection against 2 strains of type-A virus and one strain of type-B virus. The 2009 H1N1 vaccine will be provided separately from the standard seasonal flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that annual vaccination against influenza is recommended for:
* Persons aged 50 years and older;
* Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
* Persons who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, cognitive, neurologic/neuromuscular, hematological or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);
* Persons who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus;
* Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
* Health-care personnel;
* Household contacts and caregivers of children aged <5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged <6 months; and
* Household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
Written by Denise Reynolds RD
Exclusive to eMaxHealth
Sources: The Lancet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention