People are twice as likely to have a myocardial infarction or stroke in the week following infection with flu or pneumonia, regardless of age or gender, according to the authors from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
This may explain the excess winter deaths in mortality data and backs the flu vaccination programme, they say.
The study, to be published in the European Heart Journal, looked at a UK primary care database of two million patients.
Of 20,363 who experienced a primary cardiovascular event over a year, 2% had a respiratory infection during the preceding month, compared with 0.9% of controls. The risk was highest three days following infection.
‘Even though the observed percentage of MIs and strokes which resulted from respiratory infection is low, the absolute number of MIs and strokes which could potentially be prevented is substantial, because these are common conditions,’ the authors said.
Sue Nutbrown, chairperson of the RCN Practice Nurse Association, said: ‘Nurses need to encourage patients to take their flu vaccines. We’ve done lots to reiterate the services but there are still some people we’re missing and that don’t access the
‘Nurses also need to make sure they’re aware of patients with respiratory problems and encourage them to get the vaccine as well,’ she added.
Ellen Mason, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: ‘We would urge anyone who has heart disease to go for their flu vaccine. For the general public there is no cause for alarm.’