To Win the Super Bowl, Get Your Flu Shot

Super Bowl team cities Boulder and Charlotte could have higher rates of flu deaths

There's more than one way Charlotte or Boulder could lose the Super Bowl this year-and it might not cause many cheers on either side.

According to researchers from Tulane University in New Orleans and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, cities with teams in the Super Bowl are likely to have higher rates of flu deaths during the season.

Study authors looked at data from 1974 to 2009 and found cities that send their teams to the Super Bowl experience an 18 percent average increase of flu deaths among those over the age of 65.

"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," lead author Charles Stoecker, an assistant professor at Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said in a press release. "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 that's then going to eventually wind up in the lungs of a 65-year old."

According to Stoecker, host cities where the game is actually played need not worry, as these cities are often warmer, which decreases the likelihood of flu transmission. However, while this flu season might be a mild one, thousands of deaths are still expected, according to the press release.

The flu, or influenza, is caused by the influenza virus, which is transmitted between people through coughing, sneezing, talking and touching, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat and body aches.

Children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems are especially at risk of getting the flu. About 80 to 90 percent of flu deaths occur among those 65 years of age and older, as do 50 to 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The CDC advises that people over 65 should not only get vaccinated yearly, but consider Fluzone High-Dose, a more powerful version of the flu vaccine.

As for those at Super Bowl parties, Stoecker advises not only washing hands and getting vaccinated, but advising hosts to place "a giant sign above the dip that says, 'Scoop once.'"

This study was published January 20 in the American Journal of Health Economics.

Funding sources and disclosures were not declared.