Flu jabs a 'must' for CHD patients

Patients with CHD have been urged to come forward for flu jabs this winter, after research revealed that flu can double the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Latest research has shown that the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke doubled within a week of falling ill with flu.

But Health Protection Agency figures for vaccine uptake for the 2006 flu season showed that only 51 per cent of CHD patients were vaccinated against influenza. This comes despite GPs being incentivised for providing flu jabs to CHD patients.

Currently, the quality framework rewards GPs with seven points for vaccinating patients with CHD and a further two points for giving flu jabs to patients who have suffered TIA or stroke.

For the study, the researchers examined a disease database that contained information on two million patients registered with 500 GPs. The database was used to identify all cases of a first-time diagnosis of MI or stroke and the frequency of respiratory infections.

A total of 11, 155 cases of MI and 9,208 cases of stroke were identified.

The researchers found that the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke doubled in the week after developing the flu but then reduced over time. No increased risk was seen after a month of contracting flu.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, said that the findings of the study emphasised the importance of flu jabs.

'People with CHD are vulnerable to influenza, which is why CHD patients are included in the at-risk groups that are eligible for a flu jab.

'We are still looking to extend the influenza campaign to include those aged 50-65 so that we can vaccinate even more CHD patients.'

Dr Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study and a GP in Wigan, Greater Manchester, said: 'We strongly recommend that heart patients, irrespective of their age, should take up the offer of a free flu jab.'

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