Heart-related complications in people hospitalized with the flu

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Published: November, 2020

Serious heart complications are common in people hospitalized with influenza, according to a study published online Aug. 25, 2020, by Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the CDC looked at the rates of cardiovascular problems in more than 80,000 adults hospitalized with a confirmed case of influenza (commonly called the flu) from 2010 to 2018. Almost 12% had a serious cardiovascular problem, most commonly heart failure or a lack of adequate blood flow to the heart, known as acute coronary syndrome. The body's immune response against the infection can trigger inflammation and other changes that harm the cardiovascular system.

According to an editorial accompanying the study, adults with influenza should have a doctor assess their cardiovascular health. Only about 30% of adults develop a fever with the flu, so the infection may go undiagnosed. (The fever rate is higher in people who are hospitalized.) Diagnosis is key because it enables early treatment with antiviral drugs, which may lessen the risk of complications.

If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, do it now, as flu season typically lasts through March. The vaccine prevents many infections, and it also prevents severe complications when infections occur despite vaccination.

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