Super Bowl fans will have to watch out for flu symptons as well as touchdowns during the game on Sunday, according to a new U.S. study.

Whether you’re a Panthers or Broncos supporter, don’t forget to wash your hands and it might even be worth wearing a face mask between sips of beer.

Cornell University scientists, who analyzed data from areas that had a NFL club in the Super Bowl between 1974 and 2009, found that having a team make the championship increases local influenza mortality by 18 per cent.

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“Before the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas one of the club owners there came out with an estimate that Dallas gentlemen’s clubs would need to hire an additional 10,000 dancers to meet the Super Bowl demand,” study co-author Charles Stoecker told Metro. “We thought through the labor market consequences of this annual labor demand shift and then started thinking about what related labor markets might do to disease transmission patterns. We decided that the data on sexually transmitted diseases might not be accurate enough to detect the impacts of the Super Bowl. After a year or so, the idea was resurrected looking at the impacts of influenza.”

After analyzing the gathered information, researchers found out that among people above the age of 65 the mortality risk of flu-related diseases increases by almost 20 per cent. According to the report, this number is a bit higher when the dominant circulating flu strain is more virulent or when the Super Bowl occurs closer to the peak of flu season.

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Scientists have also discovered a good thing – Super Bowl has no impact on deaths due to chronic conditions like diabetes or cancer, and no effect on things like suicides or deaths due to accidents.

“We’ve known for a while that having people gather together increases disease transmission,” Stoecker added. “What’s important about this study is that we can actually detect increases in deaths as a result of a type of event that many people have experience with. Even if you haven’t been to a Super Bowl party, you’re likely to have been to a similar gathering. This study gives public health professionals something concrete to point to when asking people to protect themselves and their friends and family from influenza. Get vaccinated, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re sick.”

Researchers hope their study will lead to an increase of public health campaigns during influenza season.

– Dmitry Belyaev

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