Cities that had teams playing in the Super Bowl saw an increase in flu-related deaths the year that the annual championship game took place, according to a new study.
In the study – published in the American Journal of Health Economics – the researchers looked at data on flu deaths in the United States between 1974 and 2009. They found an eighteen percent increase in flu deaths among people age sixty-five and older from counties that had teams play in the Super Bowl, compared with counties whose teams did not advanced to the Super Bowl that year.
Nicholas Sanders, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of economics at Cornell University who has studied health economics, suspects that social events that bring people together to watch the game, as well as Super Bowl parties, may increase the risk of influenza transmission – specifically in cities whose teams play in the Super Bowl.
According to the researchers, even though people over the age of sixty-five might not go to a bar to celebrate, they could still catch the flu from someone else, especially if the influenza cases increase in the overall population of the city. Seniors are also at higher risk for complications from flu.
That being said, the cities that host the Super Bowl did not see an increase in flu deaths, the findings showed. Perhaps city locals tend to avoid going out when their city is packed with fans that travel to the area to see the Super Bowl, the researchers said.
Sanders said that the increase of flu-related deaths (associated with the Super Bowl), was higher when the event was held close to the peak of flu season, or when the dominant flu strain was more harmful.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the current flu season had a slow start, and that the illnesses are just beginning to spread nationwide. This year, the dominant flu strain is H1N1 – a subtype of influenza A virus that was the most common cause of flu in 2009 – according to the CDC.
An influenza vaccine is the best way to prevent flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated. To avoid getting the flu, people should also not share their drinks and food with each other, and should wash their hands frequently. Moreover, people who are sick should try and avoid social gatherings until their symptoms go away, the researchers recommended.
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