Similar to COVID-19, severe flu can trigger heart disease

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study, researchers found that among 90,000 Americans hospitalized with the flu, 12% had serious heart complications, including heart attack and sudden heart failure.

Many ended up in the intensive care unit, and 7% died in the hospital.

The study shows that COVID-19 isn’t alone among viruses that can up the odds for heart events.

It also underscores the importance of getting the flu shot, especially this year.

The research was conducted by a team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the flu usually causes temporary miseries like fever, cough, and a sore throat, it can also lead to complications such as pneumonia and other secondary infections.

The infection can also worsen certain chronic health conditions, including heart disease.

In the study, the team looked at 90,000 flu hospitalizations in 17 U.S. states between 2010 and 2018. Just under 12% of those patients suffered a heart complication.

Not surprisingly, people with existing heart conditions were at greater risk: 21% of those patients had a cardiac complication—as did 19% of patients with kidney disease and 15% of those with diabetes.

Of study patients with heart complications, almost one-third landed in the ICU, and 7% died.

Flu may directly trigger heart complications, by spurring body-wide inflammation. If, for example, a person has artery-clogging “plaques,” that inflammation could rupture the plaque and lead to a heart attack.

The team says in this season, flu vaccination is particularly important because of the pandemic.

A yearly flu shot is always recommended, especially for people older than 65 and those with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.

They are at heightened risk of flu complications.

The shot is no guarantee against the flu, but it is typically about 50% effective. And even if it does not prevent the infection entirely, it may reduce the severity of the illness.

One author of the study is Dr. Shikha Garg, a senior researcher.

The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.