As almost every American knows, the championship game of the National Football League (NFL) takes place every year in January or February.
In what many consider a national holiday, the game which is best known as the Super Bowl is expected to bring in billions of dollars in business for the NFL and other companies taking advantage of the event.
In fact, one study estimates that Americans will purchase and consume over 160 million pounds of chicken wings this weekend. Considering that chicken wings are a favorite snack amongst football fans and that an estimated 189 million people will tune in to watch this year’s Super Bowl, that amount of chicken wings is actually quite reasonable.
But aside from bringing in big money and bringing people together to celebrate one of our country’s favorite past times, the Super Bowl does have at least one drawback.
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Health Economics, the death rate from Influenza (more commonly known as the “Flu”) is noticeably higher in cities whose teams make it to the Super Bowl.
The study examined national statistics from 1974 to 2009 to see if having a team in the Super Bowl impacted influenza mortality in that team’s home city. The trend was undeniable: cities with a team in the Super Bowl consistently showed an increase in flu-related deaths, with an average 18% increase among those over the age of 65.
Since the influenza virus spreads relatively easily, the researchers behind the study suggest several likely factors which may contribute to the increase. First, more game-watching gatherings means more human contact, and thus a greater probability of transmissions. These transmissions can be caused by sharing chips in a community chip bowl, getting sneezed on, sharing drinks, or any of the hundreds of other close interactions we have at Super Bowl parties.
Another significant factor is that fans in cities with a participating NFL team are more likely to travel to the game. This change in traveling patterns increases a fan’s chances of coming into contact with influenza.
The study also showed that the effects are magnified when the Super Bowl takes place closer to the peak of flu season.
Just like the big game, the peak of flu season does not come at the same time every year. Luckily for residents of Denver and Charlotte, cases of the flu are just starting to rise, so it looks like the peak of flu season and the Super Bowl are not aligned this time. This year’s flu season is also mild compared to last year’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, it’s important that fans take all the necessary precautions to keep themselves and the people around them flu-free.
The best way to avoid getting the flu and potentially spreading the virus is to get a flu vaccine at your local medical center. Other means of protecting yourself include washing your hands frequently, cleaning surfaces at your home, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Read the original study here.