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Getting a flu shot may protect you from dangerous heart complications

A new study has confirmed a link between the flu and serious heart conditions. Among 80,000 patients hospitalized for the flu, sudden heart complications were found to be common – affecting one out of every eight individuals.

Study lead author Eric Chow is an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and was formerly an epidemic intelligence service officer for influenza at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While there has been previous evidence to suggest that the flu can be accompanied by sudden heart problems, the current study is the first to show just how frequently this occurs. 

“There are few respiratory viruses we have a vaccine for,” said Chow. “Our team motto is ‘Get a flu shot.'” 

According to the study, 12 percent of adults hospitalized with the flu had acute heart complications. Among these, 30 percent were admitted to the ICU and seven percent died while in the hospital.

The analysis showed that five percent of the flu patients had a cardiac complication despite having no documented underlying conditions. 

In the last few weeks, there have been cases of healthy individuals showing signs of heart complications after recovering from COVID-19, including athletes. For example, 27-year-old Florida State basketball player Michael Ojo, who had recently recovered from COVID-19, died of a heart attack during practice.

Chow said he is not surprised this is happening to healthy people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. The virus can cause damage to the heart and other organs, and inflammation greatly increases the risk of potentially fatal arrhythmias during vigorous exercise.

The CDC recommends for everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year, and emphasizes that flu vaccination is particularly important for people at high risk of developing serious complications, including people with heart disease. However, people with heart disease should not receive the live attenuated influenza vaccine, also known as the nasal spray flu vaccine.

The study is published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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