How the flu turns deadly

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The flu season in the U.S. this year has been particularly harsh, already having claimed the lives of at least 30 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although most people do not die from the flu, young children and people with other illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes are at elevated risks.
Adults can succumb to the flu in three ways: pneumonia, sepsis and heart attack.

Pneumonia can develop in a person who is infected with influenza.

Pneumonia causes the small air sacs of the lungs to fill with fluid or pus, sometimes leading to death.

With sepsis, the influenza virus can trigger the body to release chemicals into the blood to fight infection that triggers inflammation throughout the body. That inflammation can then trigger multiple organ system failure.

The third way the flu kills adults is by triggering heart attacks. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a person is six times more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with the flu, compared to the year before or after the infection.

Experts are urging people to get flu shots, even though it may not always prevent an infection from the flu virus.

1. Young children and people with underlying illnesses have higher risks of dying from flu
2. Flu can lead to pneumonia
3. Flu can lead to sepsis
4. Flu can increase chance of heart attack

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