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Swine flu triggers heart attacks

swine flu may trigger heart attacks Vaccine may offer protection

Swine flu and seasonal flu can trigger heart attacks in higher risk groups and especially in people with pre-existing heart conditions, new reserach has found.

Scientists from the University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at 39 studies carried out between 1923 and 2008 to find out if people with heart disease were more at risk of a heart attack during the flu season.

Given that people in the UK are facing the "double whammy" of both seasonal and pandemic flu this winter, their results are particularly relevant.

The combined results from all the studies showed that deaths from both heart disease and heart attacks increased during the flu season by between 35 - 50%.

This was true for all strains of the seasonal flu virus strains in circulation over the 76 years covered by the studies, and so it's also likely to be true for the new strain of pandemic flu virus.

However, the results also showed that being vaccinated against flu offered a degree of protection against dying from heart disease or heart attack.

The authors of the report, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, also noted the poor flu vaccination rate in people with chronic diseases. During the 2008-9 flu season last year, less than half of this risk group were vaccinated against flu.

"We believe influenza vaccination should be encouraged wherever indicated, especially in those people with existing cardiovascular diseaseā€¦ Further evidence is needed on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines to reduce the risk of cardiac events in people without established vascular disease, " they concluded.

This article was published on Tue 22 September 2009

Image © Marin Conic - Fotolia.com

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