Insights on Influenza Blog
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FLU VACCINATION FOR

People With Certain Health Conditions

Individuals living with certain health conditions, even when these conditions are well-controlled, are at greater risk of flu complications, including hospitalization, catastrophic disability, and even death.

Certain health conditions can put you at greater risk of flu complications.

Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more.1 However, people of all ages that suffer with the following conditions are at increased risk of flu-related complications:2

  • asthma
  • neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions
  • chronic lung disease
  • heart disease or had a stroke
  • blood disorders
  • endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes)
  • kidney disorders
  • liver disorders
  • metabolic disorders
  • weakened immune system due to disease or medication (e.g., people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • people younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin therapy
  • people with extreme obesity (BMI of 40 or more)
Nathaniel Gorenstein, influenza and asthma

On November 19, 2009, 4-year-old Nate started coughing. As a result his asthma flared up and quickly grew worse.

Read Nate's Story

Danger of Flu in Those With Certain Health Conditions

People with a chronic health condition(s) are at increased risk from flu and associated complications. Some people may not even be aware that they have a chronic health condition. That's why annual flu vaccination is so important for everyone six months of age and older. If you have one of these conditions, ask your doctor which flu vaccine is right for you.

Some of the more common conditions that can elevate risk of flu include:


 

DIABETES

34+ million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes3, which puts them at high risk of the following flu-related complications:

  • 6x increased risk of hospitalization4
  • increased risk of heart attack or stroke5
  • worsening of diabetic conditions (poor glycemic control and acidosis) due to lack of appetite and difficulty controlling blood sugar. Reduced appetite can cause blood sugar levels to fall.5
  • increased risk of renal and cardiovascular disease issues6
  • permanent physical decline or loss of independence
  • 3x higher risk of death due to flu infection7
Diabetes and Influenza Risks

 

HEART DISEASE

Approximately half of Americans have some form of heart disease8, which puts them at high risk of the following flu-related complications: 

  • 10x increased risk of heart attack within 1-3 days of flu infection9
  • inflammation in the body that leads to an increased risk of heart attack weeks after acute flu infection10
  • permanent physical decline and loss of independence
  • hospitalization
  • stroke11
  • death

Approximately 12% of patients hospitalized with flu experience sudden, serious heart complications12. On average, as many as 1 in 5 heart failure hospitalizations appear to be triggered by the flu during the months when influenza viruses are circulating widely1.

 

Heart Disease and Influenza Risks

 

LUNG DISEASE

40+ million people have asthma or COPD, which increases their risk of serious flu-related complications.13 Since these people already have sensitive airways, inflammation caused by flu can make their symptoms worse. They could experience:

  • asthma attacks or a worsening of their lung disease14
  • progressive loss of lung function14
  • complications such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases14
  • hospitalization14
  • a permanent physical decline and potential loss of independence
  • death 
Lung Disease and Influenza Risks

Benefits of Flu Vaccination in Those with Chronic Health Conditions

  • Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 79% for people with diabetes15 
  • Flu vaccination can reduce hospital admissions by 38% for people with COPD16
  • Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of heart attack by 15 – 45% for people with heart disease. Flu vaccination can be equally or even more effective at preventing heart attacks than other behavioral modifications or medications such as statins (19-30%), antihypertensive therapy (17-25%), and smoking cessation (32-43%)17

 

People with conditions such as lung disease, heart disease (except isolated hypertension), kidney disease (like diabetes), kidney or liver disorders, neurologic/neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV). Ask your doctor which flu vaccine is right for you.

Caroline Miller had mild asthma prior to being in a drug-induced coma, intubated and on a ventilator for 2 weeks with flu.

Read Caroline's Story

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Page last reviewed: September 2020. 

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