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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Aftermath of Flu: Increased Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack

By Gary Evans

In the immediate aftermath of surviving a flu infection, some patients are at increased risk of strokes, heart attack, and permanent disability, said William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville.

“Flu can predispose individuals to heart attack and stroke and can also initiate a slide into progressive disability,” Schaffner said.

These events can occur even after one recovers from the acute respiratory illness. Indeed, influenza infection causes a systemic inflammatory reaction that can leave one vulnerable to several sequala, Schaffner said Sept. 27 in Washington, DC, at the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases annual press conference on the upcoming influenza season.

“This lingering inflammation can cause damage to the blood vessels, particularly those to the heart and the brain,” he said. “As a consequence, the accumulating evidence now shows that there is an increased risk of heart attack and stroke during the two to four weeks after recovery from acute influenza.”

Another post-flu event that is becoming clearer is that recovery from the initial infection may not be complete in the frail and elderly. Instead, flu can trigger a cascade into decline.

“The virus is even more nasty than you thought,” Schaffner said.

For more on this topic see the November 2018 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.