Can Flu Shots Reduce Blood Clot Threat?

    Nov-11-2008

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University Paris Descartes has claimed that in addition to defending us from influenza, an inoculation against flu also lowers the threat of building up blood clots in the body. The study has suggested that the vaccination is able to reduce the risk by approximately 26%.

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During the course of their research, which included over 1,400 patients, scientists have discovered that the inoculation against the flu is uniformly effectual against two different kinds of blood accumulation in the circulatory system. The flu shot was found to be successful against deep vein thrombosis, thickening of the blood in the leg, and pulmonary embolism or accumulation of blood mass in the lung.

It may be mentioned here that clotting of blood may often prove to be lethal if it bursts out and passes through the blood vessels to reach the lungs.

The study also detected that immunization against influenza also helped to reduce the possibility of building up blood clots by 48 per cent amid people above the age of 52. Moreover, the research found that the inoculation against flu was successful in lowering the threats of building up accumulation of blood mass by 50 per cent in women below the age of 51 and significantly reducing the danger of forming blood clots by 59 per cent in women who use birth control pills.

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According to Dr. Joseph Emmerich, the lead study author who presented the findings of the research team at the Scientific Sessions 2008 of the American Heart Association in New Orleans, Louisiana for the first time ever in the medical history their research has shed light on the fact that the threat of venous thrombotic embolism (VTE) or blood clots is likely to be lowered by administering the inoculation against influenza or flu shots.

Although the researchers from the University Paris Descartes have suggested that the vaccination against influenza may substantially reduce the threat of blood clots in the body, it is interesting to note that they are still uncertain as to how precisely the flu shots work in this regard. According to Dr. Emmerich, his research team plans to conduct further studies on the subject with a view to discover how flu shots function or are responsible for reducing blood clots in the body.

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Some scientists have come out with a theory in this regard. They suggest that it is possible when a person suffers from flu, it sets off an inflammation in the body and this in turn could lead to accumulation of blood mass. Since flu shots protect us from influenza, it perhaps also defends the body against blood clotting. Meanwhile, discovery made by the University Paris Descartes research team is no doubt significant and it is being presumed that some day doctors will be prescribing flu shots for patients suffering from blood clotting.

To understand the issue better, a brief explanation regarding blood clots and influenza is necessary.

Commonly known as 'flu', influenza is an ailment attributed to RNA viruses, which infect the respiratory tract of the humans as well as several animals and birds. Majority of the people suffering from this infection experience headaches, high fever, exhaustion (malaise) and cough while some may suffer from additional symptoms like tender throat, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. In most cases, the symptoms continue for roughly a couple of weeks and subsequently the patient recovers experiencing no problem whatsoever later. Nevertheless, when compared to the common cold or majority of the other viral infections that affect the respiratory tract, flu infections may result in further serious ailment. In fact, the death rate due to this condition is 1 per cent, denoting that of every 100 people who are infected with RNA virus, at least one individual succumbs to flu or influenza.

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What are flu symptoms in adults and in children?

Influenza or flu causes the patients to experience several symptoms. Some of the most common clinical features of this condition include headache; fever (normally between 100°F and 103°F in adults and even higher temperature in children); tender throat; chills; cough (this occurs more frequently in adults); stuffy or runny nose; and other problems related to the respiratory tract. The typical symptoms of flu also include exhaustion (occasionally extreme loss of energy) and muscle aches.

While influenza infections may occasionally occur together with vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, particularly in children, seldom are the gastrointestinal symptoms prominent. In fact, the expression 'stomach flu' is an inaccurate term, which is occasionally used to express gastrointestinal ailments attributed to other different microorganisms. On the other hand, H1N1 infections are known to result in vomiting, nausea and diarrhea compared to the seasonal (conventional) flu viruses.

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Usually, majority of the patients affected by the flu virus completely recuperate in just one or two weeks' time. However, a number of people may develop severe complications that may prove to be life-threatening medical problems, for instance, pneumonia. On average, every year as many as 36,000 people die due to flu throughout the United States, while numerous others need to be hospitalized. There is no specific age when complications related to influenza may occur. Nevertheless, compared to healthy and young people, aged people and individuals suffering from persistent health conditions are possibly more vulnerable to severe complications following the typical flu infections.

On the other hand, a dissimilar infection pattern was developed by the H1N1 virus. It is really unfortunate that this infection pattern is akin to those of the 1918 'Spanish flu' epidemic, wherein young individuals, including babies, teens, pregnant women, and even adults below 49 years were most vulnerable across the globe. An examination of individuals who were more susceptible to the complications arising out of the H1N1 infection revealed that people other than those mentioned above, for instance, obese people, people with COPD and native Indians in America, were also vulnerable to these complications.

It is rather unfortunate that people may be infected roughly 24 hours to 48 hours prior to the appearance of the symptoms. And people who are in the process of recovery on their own from this condition shed infectious viruses for approximately one week.

What are blood clots?

Blood is basically the fluid that circulates inside the blood vessels. As the heart keeps pumping blood through the arteries to various organs as well as cells of our body, blood is always in motion. Blood passes through the veins to return to the heart. Contraction of the body muscles result in the compression of the veins and by this means they force the blood to return to the heart.

Blood clotting or coagulation of blood is a vital mechanism that aids the body to mend the damaged blood vessels. The human blood comprises red blood cells (also known as erythrocytes) enclosing hemoglobin transporting oxygen to the cells, while getting rid of carbon dioxide (a waste product of the metabolic process). In addition, the blood contains white blood cells (also known as leucocytes) that help the body to combat infections, platelets that form a part of the body's blood clotting process, and blood plasma containing chemicals, fluids and proteins which are essential for the normal functioning of the body.

Our bloodstream has a complex mechanism that helps blood clot formation, whenever and where ever required. In case the blood vessels' lining is harmed, the platelets are employed in the damaged area to form the first blockage. The platelets that are activated discharge chemicals, which use a succession of clotting substance made by the body to commence the clotting cascade.

Eventually, this leads to the formation of fibrin, which is basically a protein that establishes a cross link (adjacent chains of a protein) with it weaving a network that comprises the ultimate blood clot.

In medical terminology, blood clot is known as thrombus (in plural it is 'thrombi'). There is hardly any consequence when a thrombus or blood clot forms normally to repair the body. However, it is unfortunate that at times thrombus or blood clot form even when it is not necessary and when this occurs, it may possibly have major consequences.

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