It’s November: Time to get flu shot

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All heart patients should take flu vaccine as death from flu is more common among people with heart diseases and diabetics than any other chronic condition.

The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and Heart Care Foundation of India all recommend that all heart patients and diabetics get flu shots.

Influenza or flu is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract, which occurs from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. Annual vaccination against seasonal influenza prevents cardiovascular morbidity and all-cause mortality in patients with cardiovascular conditions.

Heart patients should only receive the injectable flu vaccine (inactivated influenza vaccine) and not the live, attenuated vaccine given as a nasal spray. The live vaccine has not been approved for use in heart patients.

Flu complications include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

October or November is the best time to get a flu shot, but getting a shot in January or even later can still be beneficial. Flu season can start as early as October and last as late as May. It takes 1 to 2 weeks for the flu shot to take effect. Each September, a new flu vaccine is introduced. The vaccine is approximately 70 to 90 percent effective for healthy adults.

The FLUVACS study has shown that influenza vaccination reduces the risk of death and ischemic events in patients suffering from heart attack and post balloon angioplasty during flu season.

Influenza vaccination is now recommended with the same enthusiasm as cholesterol and blood pressure control and other modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.