Fatal MI risk increased by 30% during flu epidemic

GPs need to take concerted action to ensure patients at risk of CHD are given their annual flu jab, say US and Russian researchers.

The recommendation follows findings that the incidence of fatal MI increased by 30 per cent during a flu epidemic.

Flu vaccine is already recommended for patients in England with CHD or other chronic conditions and the over-65s.

But earlier this year the DoH raised concern about low vaccine uptake in at-risk groups. Only 51 per cent of patients with CHD had received a flu jab by December 2006 (GP, 2 February).

For the latest study, rates of autopsy-confirmed fatal MI and IHD that occurred in St Petersburg between 1993 and 2000 were plotted against acute respiratory disease (ARD) counts and flu outbreaks.

Every year, the peak of MI and IHD deaths coincided with flu epidemics and peak ARD activity.

When death rates in the flu epidemic weeks were compared to the average off-season weeks, they found the odds of fatal MI increased by 30 per cent and fatal IHD by 10 per cent.

County Durham GP Dr Ahmet Fuat, a member of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society (PCCS), said: ‘The study adds evidence that we should vaccinate these people and primary healthcare teams need to use every avenue.’

This could include awareness campaigns and vaccine clinics outside of the surgery for those who work, he added.

Dr Peter Stott, a GP with an interest in flu who practises in Tadworth, Surrey, said: ‘We do our best to try to encourage people to come in by running clinics or vaccinating opportunistically when people come into the practice.’

Chairman of the PCCS Dr Terry McCormack said: ‘Evidence like this is useful for GPs when explaining to patients why they need flu vaccination if they have IHD.’

Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the RCGP Birmingham Research Unit, said vaccinating the over-65s remained the priority.

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