- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2018

If being sick with the flu isn’t bad enough, research points to an increased risk of heart attack shortly after suffering from the lower respiratory infection.

study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who tested positive for influenza were six times more likely to have an acute myocardial infarction — a heart attack — within one week of their diagnosis.

The risk is higher for older adults, patients who had the influenza B infection and for people who had suffered a heart attack in the past.

The predominant strain this flu season is Influenza A(H3N2), although cases of influenza A(H1N1) and influenza B are circulating, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers didn’t evaluate whether their subjects had been given the flu vaccine and how this would have influenced the results.

Vaccine effectiveness in a good year hovers from 40 percent to 60 percent, according to specialists, but this season health professionals are concerned that the vaccine will work for only 10 percent to 30 percent of the population.

Researchers identified 364 cases of heart attack that occurred one year before and one year after the patient having a positive flu diagnosis. They found that in the seven days following a positive flu diagnosis, the rate of hospital admissions for a heart attack was 20 admissions per week. There was a rate of 3.3 heart attack admissions at 52 weeks before flu infection and 51 weeks after.

“These results suggest that influenza is illustrative of the role that acute respiratory infections have in precipitating acute myocardial infarction,” the authors wrote in the paper.

Based on the results, the researchers wrote that they support established, international guidelines that advocate for influenza immunization in people 65 and older; increased vaccinations for “other respiratory pathogens”; continued work on developing a universal flu vaccine; and promotion of established preventive hygiene — washing hands with soap and water, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and keeping social distance.

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