Public Release: 

Researchers confirm link between flu and heart attack

Public Health Ontario

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IMAGE: This study confirms the importance of flu vaccination for people at risk of heart disease. view more 

Credit: ICES/PHO

TORONTO, January 24, 2018 -- Chances of a heart attack are increased six-fold during the first seven days after detection of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection, according to a new study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Public Health Ontario (PHO).

"Our findings are important because an association between influenza and acute myocardial infarction reinforces the importance of vaccination," says Dr. Jeff Kwong, a scientist at ICES and PHO and lead author of the study.

In the study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers found a significant association between acute respiratory infections, particularly influenza, and acute myocardial infarction.

The risk may be higher for older adults, patients with influenza B infections, and patients experiencing their first heart attack. The researchers also found elevated risk - albeit not as high as for influenza - with infection from other respiratory viruses.

"Our findings, combined with previous evidence that influenza vaccination reduces cardiovascular events and mortality, support international guidelines that advocate for influenza immunization in those at high risk of a heart attack," says Kwong.

The researchers looked at nearly 20,000 Ontario adult cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection from 2009 to 2014 and identified 332 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack within one year of a laboratory-confirmed influenza diagnosis.

"People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing," says Kwong.

The researchers add that patients should not delay medical evaluation for heart symptoms particularly within the first week of an acute respiratory infection.

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Author block: Kwong JC, Schwartz KL, Campitelli MA, Chung H, Crowcroft NS, Karnauchow T, Katz K, Ko DT, McGeer AJ, McNally D, Richardson D, Rosella LC, Simor A, Smieja M, Zahariadis G, Gubbay JB.

The article "Acute myocardial infarction after laboratory-confirmed influenza infection" is published in the January 25th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

Public Health Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health of all Ontarians and reducing inequities in health. Public Health Ontario links public health practitioners, front-line health workers and researchers to the best scientific intelligence and knowledge from around the world. For the latest PHO news, follow us on Twitter: @publichealthON.

For more information, please contact:

Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
deborah.creatura@ices.on.ca
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

Janet Wong
Media Relations Advisor, PHO
media@oahpp.ca
647-260-7247

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