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People who have had a respiratory infection in the past month have a dramatically increased risk of heart attack, research suggests.

In a study of 119 heart attack patients published in Heart (December), chest pain on breathing was associated with an 18-fold increased risk of myocardial infarction, and fever was associated with a six-fold higher risk.

Study author Professor Tom Meade, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said there was absolutely no doubt about the strength of the association and the results were 'highly significant'.

He said: 'It highlights the importance of very high uptake levels of all vaccinations ­ not just flu.'

Although the researchers did not find a direct association with primary definition of respiratory infection, association with chest pain on breathing remained after excluding patients whose pain could have been due to early onset of heart problems.

Dr Christoph Meier, pharmacist and epidemiologist at the pharmacoepidemiology unit, University of Basel, Switzerland, whose research on the issue has been published in The Lancet, said: 'Maybe it would be a good idea to use aspirin to lower the fever since it also inhibits platelet aggregation.'

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