If you plan on partying in Charlotte or Denver on Super Bowl Sunday, make sure to pack some hand sanitizer. A new study published in the American Journal of Health Economics suggests that cities with teams playing in the Super Bowl are more likely to feel the effects of the flu in a very dramatic way.
Researchers from Cornell and Tulane looked at data collected between 1974 to 2009 to compare how many people died from the flu in counties that had teams in the Super Bowl versus counties that didn't. Areas with a team in the Super Bowl saw an 18 percent increase in flu deaths in people older than 65.
Surprisingly, the increase in flu-related deaths doesn't have to do with germ-ridden football arenas. In fact, the researchers looked at the death rate from flu in cities that were hosting the Super Bowl and didn't find any significant connection, so there's some good news for the people of San Francisco this year.
Instead, it's the fans at home who are likely spreading the flu as they chow down on chicken wings. When your home team is in the Super Bowl, you're more likely to get together with friends and family for a party, either at a bar or at home. And there's no better way to spread the flu than getting lots of people together in a small space to eat, drink, and be merry (or mad), and then sending them off in all different directions.
"A bunch of people are cramped in a small space, and they're all touching the same napkins and grabbing the same chips," Nicholas Sanders, an economics professor at Cornell, said in a statement. "If your team wins, you're all out in the street celebrating. It's that kind of disease transmission that we think might be a driving factor."
But we're not saying you shouldn't enjoy game day: Just be sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid sharing drinks or food at parties, the study researchers recommend. That means steer clear of the mixed nuts on the coffee table, and make people who double-dip in the guacamole go sit in the corner and think about what they've done. And, of course, if you're feeling sick, do everyone a favor and just watch the game by yourself at home.