As you split chips and dip with friends while you root for the Patriots or Eagles (or against them) this Sunday, you may want to take some extra precautions – you’ll want to leave this year’s Super Bowl party with good memories, not a bad case of the flu.
Or, if you’ve already got the flu, maybe just sit this one out.
An article published Friday by WebMD cites research claiming that when a more dangerous flu season peaks around the same time as the Super Bowl, the effect can be anywhere from two to seven times worse than normal.
Bostonians and Philadelphians, beware. According to a 2015 health study from Tulane University, flu deaths jump 18 percent among adults over age 65 in the cities of the teams that make the Super Bowl.
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The reason is very straightforward: Super Bowl parties are common, especially among the cities of participating teams, and any event that brings people together increases the likelihood of spreading illness.
Dr. Steve Alles, director of the Division of Disease Control for Philadelphia, told WebMD the flu is currently peaking in that city.
Alles added that the ensuing parade that’ll take place if the Eagles beat the Patriots could be another major contributor to flu spread.
This year’s flu strand, H3N2, is a particularly devastating one. The death toll in California alone is 127 this flu season – with 100 of those deaths coming since New Year’s Eve.
Speaking with Mary Louise Kelly, NPR social science expert Shankar Vedantam discussed the Tulane study, and offered a common sense solution.
“Things you can do if you want to reduce the spread of the flu is, you know, get a flu shot. And if you’re sick, stay home,” Vedantam said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend flu vaccination, frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact as measures to mitigate flu risks – throughout all of flu season, of course, not just Super Bowl Sunday.
Fans may not be the only ones afflicted heading into the big game.
New England cornerback Malcolm Butler lagged behind his teammates in arriving to Minnesota this week due to flu-like symptoms, ESPN reported, but on Thursday said he’s “good to go.” Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan did not practice Wednesday due to an illness, but coach Doug Pederson said the team does not think Jernigan has the flu.