After Super Bowl Sunday, physicians in Denver and Charlotte expect a flu surge — here's why

While Aurora, Colo.-based UC Health has been diagnosing fictitious "Broncos fever" leading up to the team's appearance in the Super Bowl, healthcare providers in Denver and Charlotte, N.C., may want to be on the lookout for a very real illness: The flu.

According to a study recently published in the American Journal of Health Economics, when a city has a team in the Super Bowl (like Denver does in its Broncos and Charlotte does in the Carolina Panthers), it experiences a roughly 18 percent uptick in influenza deaths that year.

Researchers studied county-level flu statistics from 1974 to 2009, comparing flu deaths in Super Bowl-participating counties to nonparticipating counties. While they saw flu mortality rates increase in cities with a participating team, they saw no such increase in the Super Bowl-hosting city — so San Francisco is likely in the clear this year.

The cause of the increase could be the Super Bowl parties thrown by NFL fans.

"It's people that are staying at home and hosting small local gatherings, so your Super Bowl party, that are actually passing influenza among themselves," said Nicholas Stoecker, a co-author of the study. "Every year, we host these parties that we go to and it changes mixing patterns and you are coughing and sneezing and sharing chips and dip with people that you often don't and so we get the influenza transmitted in novel ways that's going to eventually wind up in the lungs of a 65-year-old."

Mr. Stoecker recommends getting a flu shot to avoid getting and spreading the flu.

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