Importance: Cardiovascular deaths and influenza epidemics peak during winter in temperate regions.
Objectives: To quantify the temporal association between population increases in seasonal influenza infections and mortality due to cardiovascular causes and to test if influenza incidence indicators are predictive of cardiovascular mortality during the influenza season.
Design, setting, and participants: Time-series analysis of vital statistics records and emergency department visits in New York City, among cardiovascular deaths that occurred during influenza seasons between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2012. The 2009 novel influenza A(H1N1) pandemic period was excluded from temporal analyses.
Exposures: Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, grouped by age (≥0 years and ≥65 years) and scaled by laboratory surveillance data for viral types and subtypes, in the previous 28 days.
Main outcomes and measures: Mortality due to cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and myocardial infarction.
Results: Among adults 65 years and older, who accounted for 83.0% (73 363 deaths) of nonpandemic cardiovascular mortality during influenza seasons, seasonal average influenza incidence was correlated year to year with excess cardiovascular mortality (Pearson correlation coefficients ≥0.75, P ≤ .05 for 4 different influenza indicators). In daily time-series analyses using 4 different influenza metrics, interquartile range increases in influenza incidence during the previous 21 days were associated with an increase between 2.3% (95% CI, 0.7%-3.9%) and 6.3% (95% CI, 3.7%-8.9%) for cardiovascular disease mortality and between 2.4% (95% CI, 1.1%-3.6%) and 6.9% (95% CI, 4.0%-9.9%) for ischemic heart disease mortality among adults 65 years and older. The associations were most acute and strongest for myocardial infarction mortality, with each interquartile range increase in influenza incidence during the previous 14 days associated with mortality increases between 5.8% (95% CI, 2.5%-9.1%) and 13.1% (95% CI, 5.3%-20.9%). Out-of-sample prediction of cardiovascular mortality among adults 65 years and older during the 2009-2010 influenza season yielded average estimates with 94.0% accuracy using 4 different influenza metrics.
Conclusions and relevance: Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness were associated with and predictive of cardiovascular disease mortality. Retrospective estimation of influenza-attributable cardiovascular mortality burden combined with accurate and reliable influenza forecasts could predict the timing and burden of seasonal increases in cardiovascular mortality.