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Influenza and Diabetes: Why Should I Get Vaccinated?

The influenza virus, also known as the “seasonal flu,” is a common virus that can cause serious complications. Influenza is particularly dangerous to people with who are at higher risk, such as seniors or people who are immunocompromised. 

The flu virus is a powerful one, and all the more problematic since it evolves into a new strain year after year. To get the best protection, you must get your flu shot every fall.

Influenza vaccination is recommended for most people living with diabetes, including type 1 diabetes. Here’s why:

  • The vaccine protects against a potentially dangerous virus.
  • In order to limit propagation and protect those who can’t get the vaccine (e.g., due to a previous allergic reaction), a large number of people need to get vaccinated.
  • Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to a greater vulnerability to infections.
  • When ill, people with diabetes run a greater risk of additional complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis.

A potential protection against heart disease

The influenza virus causes an inflammatory response which, in some rare cases, can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Researchers looked into influenza immunization as a potential additional way to prevent cardiovascular diseases, since people with diabetes are already at a higher risk. 

Close to 250,000 individuals with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes took part in the study, and about half of them did not receive any flu vaccine during the whole observation period (from 2007 to 2016).

After identifying certain risk factors that could potentially influence the analysis of data (e.g., sex, age), the researchers found a connection between influenza immunization and a lower prevalence of heart disease. However, it was impossible to establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship given that individuals who get the flu shot are possibly as likely to pay particular attention to preventing the flu as they are to preventing heart disease.

The BETTER registry aims to establish a registry of people with type 1 diabetes in Quebec.

Sign up for the BETTER registry to be part of it!

Reference

  • Modin, D., Claggett, B., Køber, L., Schou, M., Jensen, J. U., Solomon, S. D., Biering-Sørensen, T. (2020). Influenza Vaccination Is Associated With Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality in Adults With Diabetes: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Diabetes Care. doi:10.2337/dc20-0229

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