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It’s well-known that the flu can lead to significant respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia, bronchitis and bacterial infection of the lungs. The virus’ effects on the heart have historically been harder to parse out, in part because many patients already have a known predisposition to cardiac events and in part because the cardiac event often occurs weeks after the onset of the flu.

But here’s what recent research has shown:

  • Cardiovascular deaths and influenza epidemics spike around the same time.
  • Patients are six times more likely to experience a heart attack the week after influenza infection than they are at any point during the year prior or the year after the infection.
  • In one study looking at 336,000 hospital admissions for flu, 11.5% experienced a serious cardiac event.
  • Another study looking at 90,000 lab-confirmed influenza infections showed a strikingly similar rate of 11.7% experiencing an acute cardiovascular event.
  • One in eight patients, or 12.5%, admitted to the hospital with influenza experienced a cardiovascular event, with 31% of those requiring intensive care and 7% dying as a result of the event, another study found.

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