San Francisco is bracing itself to host the 50th Super Bowl, but Denver and Charlotte are going to be seeing a real uptick in mortality rates. It seems that if your team is playing in the Super Bowl, your chances of catching a deadly flu go up, albeit slightly.
Tulane University just analyzed 35 years worth of flu data, and published the disturbing results in the American Journal of Health Economics. If a city had a team playing in the Super Bowl, its mortality rates due to influenza jumped. Based on data from 1974 through 2009, cities with teams in the Super Bowl saw 18 percent increases in influenza mortality for people over 65.
Host cities, despite an influx of people from all over America, see no increase in mortality. The culprit isn’t air travel—it’s Super Bowl parties. These parties bring together wide groups of people who wouldn’t otherwise meet up. The extended family of the host meet the friends and possibly a few lonely work acquaintances. And as people get worked up over the game, they neglect a few important things—like not double-dipping. As people shout and cough and the guacamole gets progressively filled with people’s saliva, the chances of spreading the flu increase.
Tulane scientists suggest getting a flu shot, washing hands frequently, or just making it really clear that it’s not okay to double-dip. And may we suggest investing in finger-bowls to fill with dip if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party? Everyone gets their own. It’s the elegant way to not spread disease.