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New research shows that flu is a trigger of heart attacks

Doctors need to take concerted action to ensure that people who are at risk of heart disease receive the influenza vaccine every autumn, according to the authors of a new report published today (Wednesday 18 April) in the European Heart Journal. Their research shows that influenza epidemics are associated with a rise in deaths from heart disease and that flu can actually trigger the heart attacks that result in death.

However, only about 60% of people in the USA who ought to have a flu jab actually have one and this percentage is even smaller in Europe, said Professor Mohammad Madjid, the lead author of the report.

"Our research has shown that influenza epidemics are associated with a rise in coronary deaths. This calls for more intensive efforts to increase the vaccination rate in people at risk of coronary heart disease. This may be especially important in an influenza pandemic when we would expect to see high mortality amongst the elderly and those suffering from heart problems or who have multiple coronary risk factors," he said. "Between 10 and 20% of people catch flu every year, and I have estimated that we can prevent up to 90,000 coronary deaths a year in the USA if every high risk patient received an annual flu vaccination."

Prof Madjid, who is assistant professor of medicine at the University of Texas-Houston, and a senior research scientist at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, USA, worked with colleagues in the US and in St Petersburg in the Russian Federation to investigate deaths between 1993 and 2000 in St Petersburg that had been shown by autopsy reports to be due to coronary heart disease.

"This was a population where only a small minority were receiving flu vaccines or statin drugs, so this enabled us to see what happened naturally in the absence of these medicines," said Prof Madjid. "Relying on autopsy reports rather than death certificates enabled us to be much more accurate about the cause of death, becau
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Source:Oxford University Press


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