“Cover your coughs in the Carolinas and don’t double dip in Denver,” a Tulane University study published in the American Journal of Health Economics says. Cities with teams in the Super Bowl see a marked rise in flu-related deaths.
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine researcher, Charles Stoecker, teamed up with economists, Alan Barreca of Tulane and Nicholas Sanders, of Cornell University to examine county-level statistics from 1974-2009.
Over the decades, there’s been an alarming trend: Having a team in the Super Bowl led to an average 18 percent increase in flu deaths among men and women over the age of 65. But even if you’re much younger than 65 (when you’re more vulnerable to the illness, making you more like to not overcome it), you’d still be wise to pay special attention at that Super Bowl party you’re inevitably going to this Sunday.
“It’s people that are staying at home and hosting small local gatherings, so your Super Bowl party, that are actually passing influenza among themselves,” says Stoecker. “Every year, we host these parties that we go to and it changes mixing patterns and you are coughing and sneezing and sharing chips and dip with people that you often don’t and so we get the influenza transmitted in novel ways.”
Of course the effects are greater when the dominant influenza strain is more lethal, but—luckily enough—models show this year’s flu season could be a mild one. That being said, the virus will still kill thousands of people and sicken many more.
You should also know it’s not necessarily the hosting city that’s most at risk. In the past, most games have been held in warmer cities where the environment is less favorable for transmission, the researchers say.
Arm yourself with the 10 Best Ways to Win the War on Colds and the Flu, and heed to Stoecker’s advice: Place a big sign above the dip that says, “Scoop once.”
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