Flu, flu-like illnesses linked to higher odds of stroke, cervical artery tears

Influenza and flu-like illnesses may be associated with an increased risk of stroke and neck artery tears, according to research that will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019, Feb. 6 to Feb. 8 in Honolulu.

For the first study, researchers examined patient records from the 2012-14 inpatient and outpatient New York Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System. They identified 30,912 patients who suffered an ischemic stroke in 2014.

They found that contracting a flu-like illness upped the likelihood of having a stroke by nearly 40 percent over the next 15 days. The increased risk remained up to one year.

Additionally, they found "the association between flu-like illness and stroke was similar between people living in rural and urban areas, as well as for men and women, and among racial groups," said Amelia K. Boehme, PhD, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of epidemiology in neurology for Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City.

For the second study, researchers reviewed 3,861 cases of first non-traumatic cervical artery dissection within the New York State Department of Health Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System from 2006-14. The identified 1,736 cases of flu-like illness and 113 of influenza during the three years before the cervical artery tear.

The study shows that the risk of a cervical artery tear increased within one month of contracting a flu-like illness.

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