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Be sure to wash your hands on Sunday before any high-fives at a Super Bowl party, says a Cornell University economist who found that geographical areas that have an NFL team advance to the Super Bowl experienced an 18 percent increase in flu-related deaths among adults over 65.

“You have friends over for a Super Bowl party. …They’re all touching the same napkins and grabbing the same chips.. ..It’s that kind of disease transmission that we think might be a driving factor,” said Nicholas Sanders, assisted professor of economics in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, discussing the study “Success Is Something to Sneeze At: Influenza Mortality in Cities That Participate in the Super Bowl” published in the winter issue of the American Journal of Health Economics.

The researchers said the Super Bowl offered an excellent experiment to test how change in people’s daily interactions such as increased travel and social interactions affect the way a disease spreads.

“It needn’t be a direct leap. …A worker at a retirement home goes out to get a drink and celebrate her team’s win, and then returns to work the next day. Those are all possible disease transmissions,” Sanders said.

 

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