Super Bowl Cities See Spike in Deaths of Elderly Flu Patients

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The 2014-15 flu season has been a particularly dangerous one across the country, especially for vulnerable elderly patients. Researchers have also found that cities that have either hosted or sent teams to the Super Bowl have experienced an 18 percent higher death rate of elderly flu patients than other cities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 198 out of every 100,000 people 65 and older have been hospitalized with the flu this year. That totals to nearly 86,000 people, the CDC estimates.

The 2012-13 season saw a record that reached 183 per 100,000 people.

While officials say the flu season seems to have peaked, many are still suffering, and some researchers have taken the opportunity to track statistics relative to the Super Bowl.

A new research paper from Tulane University finds that cities that have hosted the Super Bowl or sent teams have an 18 percent higher death rate in those 65 or older than other cities.

Economists studied flu outbreaks over the last 20 years and found a link to the Super Bowl, noting that the cities with a tie to the NFL’s big game had higher rates of the disease than others.

Researchers speculated that some of the cause of the higher transmission and death rates may be the fact that large groups of people gather to watch the game and are more apt to spread sicknesses in those groups.

“People go out to a bar or to a Super Bowl party, and they have contact with people they wouldn’t normally or in ways they wouldn’t normally. There’s few occasions when we share chips and dip,” Charles Stoecker, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health Management and Policy at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, told Time magazine.

Researchers have also noted that other communal experiences, such as the Olympics, theme parks, and large concerts, are also known to serve as a cauldron of disease and illness. In fact, this year, a measles outbreak has been tied to several Disney theme parks in California.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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