New research suggests the majority of people hospitalized with influenza also had a chronic illness.
Flu season is still underway, but the US has already experienced 3 times more influenza-related deaths than last year. However, health organizations are teaming up to relay the importance of getting a flu shot, emphasizing it’s not too late to protect yourself and others.
The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Diabetes Association shared a joint statement this morning to encourage influenza vaccination. Most flu cases are marked by unpleasant symptoms, but people with chronic illnesses may experience influenza-induced hospitalization or death.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest 9 out of every 10 people hospitalized with flu had at least 1 underlying medical condition. Chronic illnesses including heart disease, stroke history, diabetes, obesity, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease increase the risk of severe or fatal flu complications.
“If you have heart disease and you’re not vaccinated against the flu, you 6 six times more likely to have a heart attack within a week of infection,” said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, FAHA, American Heart Association chief medical officer for prevention. “The flu vaccine can be doubly protective—from bad flu and from its complications. While earlier in the season is ideal, we have a lot of flu season left, and it’s better to get one now than not at all.”
Notably, the same chronic conditions that raise the risk of flu complications are also predictors of severe COVID-19. Thus, staying up to date on all vaccines is vital, especially during seasons when respiratory viruses run rampant.
According to the CDC, the current influenza vaccine schedule stipulates all persons aged 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the flu. Regular vaccination is important, as flu vaccines are updated to contain the season’s most prevalent strains.