SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – Seahawks fans beware…cities with teams in the Super Bowl see a big spike in deaths from the flu, finds a new study.

Researchers at Tulane University scoured data from communities with Super Bowl contenders from 1974 to 2009. They found having a team in the big game increased flu deaths among those over 65-years-old by an average 18 percent.

Lead study author Charles Stoecker explains big sports events bring people together, and can create a perfect incubation ground for the flu virus.

“You’re going to the bar or to peoples’ homes for watch parties and you’re double dipping the chip, or somebody else is, and you’re spreading the flu,” he explained. “Football fans might contract a mild case of influenza, but then pass it on to other, potentially more susceptible people.”

But the scientists didn’t find any increase in flu cases in the cities hosting the Super Bowl.

“If you look at host cities, they are usually in New Orleans, Miami and other warm-weather cities that are less amenable to flu transmission,” Stoecker noted.

Public health officials should remind fans in team cities to be vigilant, urges Stoecker. “The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene. Wash those hands! And be careful around the dip.”

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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