Researchers at Tulane University used recent epidemiological data to suggest that cities with teams playing in the Super Bowl see a surge in influenza-related deaths.4 Using data from 35 years, the research team found that deaths were highest among patients over 65, a demographic known to be at high risk for influenza-related complications.1
The Super Bowl typically occurs in late January or early February, which corresponds with the seasonal surge of influenza. During the game, fans come together and facilitate transmission of the virus. At the stadium, in bars, or in homes, people congregate and increase the probability of transmission.
Although younger individuals may have less to worry about, they are capable of spreading the virus to persons at greater risk for complications, including adults over 65, children under five, pregnant women, and persons with other chronic health conditions.1
The finding by Tulane university is particularly salient this year, when the available flu vaccine is known to be less effective3 against the most common, circulating strain of influenza--H3N2.2
Interestingly, the researchers did not measure a significant increase in the number of influenza-related deaths in the cities where the superbowl is actually hosted. They attributed this to the fact that Super Bowls are generally held in warm-weather cities that make it more difficult for the virus to spread.
Watch out, Boston and Seattle. Influenza doesn’t care who wins today.