According to experts, the flu is nothing to be sneezed at//.
The research carried out by Dr. Mohammad Madjid of the University of Texas-Houston, showed that about 90, 000 extra deaths were traced to the common flu in the U.S alone.
The researchers say that this is just one more solid reason why people should get annual flu shots. Publishing the report in the European Heart Journal, they also said people with heart disease should never forgo their medications.
"Our research has shown that influenza epidemics are associated with a rise in coronary deaths," Madjid said.
"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 among the elderly and those suffering from heart problems or who have multiple coronary risk factors," he added.
Flu viruses morph every year and several are usually circulating in any given season, making the risk of flu high for most people.
Says Madjid: "Between 10 and 20 percent of people catch flu every year and I have estimated that we can prevent up to 90,000 coronary deaths a year in the (United States) if every high-risk patient received an annual flu vaccination."
Madjid and team at the Influenza Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, studied autopsy reports on people who died from heart disease in that city, between the years 1993 and 2000.
"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," Madjid explained.
The researchers found that 11,892 people died from heart attacks and 23,000 died from chronic heart disease.
Deaths from heart attacks increased by a third in flu epidemic weeks compared to non-epidemic weeks and the chances of dying from chr
onic heart disease increased by a tenth.
"This study shows that flu is an important trigger of heart attacks because flu is a severe infection, with high incidence rates and is readily preventable.
"If people can recognize that the flu vaccine has specific cardio protective effects, then high-risk people will be more likely to make sure that they receive the influenza vaccine every year", Madjid concluded.
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