Influenza can lead to heart attacks, says expert

Influenza can lead to heart attacks, says expert
The elderly as well as those suffering from heart disease should be vaccinated against influenza every year because the common flu can lead to heart attacks, said a medical expert.
Photo: ST file photo

KUALA LUMPUR - The elderly as well as those suffering from heart disease should be vaccinated against influenza every year because the common flu can lead to heart attacks, said a medical expert.

Dr Yasmin Mohamed Gani, a government consultant physician on infectious diseases, said there was enough evidence linking influenza to cardiovascular disease.

"I had a patient who died from a heart attack and later found out that she was having influenza-like symptoms before that.

"We also discovered that she was positive for Influenza A or H1N1," she said in an interview during the 2017 Tzu Chi International Medical Association Conference (Tima) here yesterday.

Influenza, said Dr Yasmin, causes blood vessels to swell as well as blood clots and hypoxia - which prevents oxygen from reaching the heart - triggering an attack.

The virus also weakens the body's immune systems, making it vulnerable to bacterial infections, she added.

"The influenza virus can cause damage or inflammation of the lungs, leading to fever, intense cough and shortness of breath and people who catch it can turn very ill.

"This is a global problem because the awareness is not there."

Besides the elderly and children, Dr Yasmin also recommended that those suffering from multiple health issues such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, lung and heart diseases be vaccinated.

"Even those who are or think they are healthy should get vaccinated. Deaths due to influenza are preventable," she said, pointing out that the yearly costs for vaccination were affordable.

However, Dr Yasmin said that the uptake for vaccinations in the country was still poor due to various factors, including the lack of awareness and cultural objections.

Tima, set up in 1998, is a global network with over 9,800 healthcare professionals serving as volunteers to make medical care more accessible to the sick and needy.

Over 1,000 medical professionals from 12 countries attended this year's event.

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