It’s finally Super Bowl week, and if you’re a sports fan like me, then that means a lot of preparation. Whether it’s making plans with friends, stopping by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for whatever Guacamole-Cheese-Bean-Buffalo Chicken dip you’re making, or placing prop bets, almost everyone is running around in preparation for Super Bowl 50.
If you’re a Denver Broncos or Carolina Panthers fan, you may also want to prepare by scheduling a flu shot. A recent study conducted by researchers from Tulane University has found that death rates tied to influenza are 18 percent higher in cities whose teams are playing in the Super Bowl, which just happens to take place at the peak of flu season every year.
Lead researcher Charles Stoecker, and his colleagues from the university’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, carried out a similar study in regards to last year’s Super Bowl. Just like in this new study, they gathered data using county-level Vital Statistics of the United States data from 1974 to 2009. Similarly, they discovered an 18 percent increase in flu deaths among fans of teams playing in the Super Bowl.
"You're going to the bar or to peoples' homes for watch parties and you're double dipping the chip -- or somebody else is -- and you're spreading the flu," Stoecker said in a statement. "Football fans might contract a mild case of influenza, but then pass it on to other, potentially more susceptible people. The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene. Wash those hands! And be careful around the dip.”
Although Bronco and Panther fans watching the big game at home should be extra vigilant when it comes to flu transmission, fans who are traveling to San Francisco to see the game in person are not considered at risk. The Super Bowl is often played in warm-weather cities with temperatures that hinder flu transmission, such as New Orleans, Miami, and San Francisco.
If the flu doesn’t get you, then maybe the alcohol will. While flu rates tend to rise among fans with teams in the big game, emergency rooms also see a spike in visits on Super Bowl Sunday. You’re never going to believe this, but the majority of these injuries are alcohol related. So in addition to scheduling a flu shot and practicing proper hygiene at this year’s Super Bowl party, maybe practice a little moderation and save yourself the hangover at work the next day.
Source: Stoecker C, et al. Success Is Something to Sneeze At: Influenza Mortality in Cities that Participate in the Super Bowl. American Journal of Health Economics. 2016.