- By Mike Rutledge Staff Writer
Here’s an important time to avoid getting the flu this weekend: at Super Bowl parties.
With influenza still prevalent in Butler County and the region, Jenny Bailer, the county’s health commissioner, responded to a recent study that found that in cities whose teams have played in the Super Bowl over the past 30 years, the number of deaths from the flu have been 18 percent higher than in other areas.
The study by researchers at UCLA and Cornell found influenza deaths among people 65 and older in Super Bowl-participating cities. Cities hosting the big game those years did not see increases, leading the researchers to believe that more Super Bowl parties and gatherings at bars were the culprit — because the more interested people are in the game, the more likely they are to watch together.
In Butler County since Oct. 1, there have been more than 349 flu hospitalizations. Here are figures for recent weeks:
“Super Bowl parties provide a good opportunity to get together with others to share food, and cheer on your favorite team,” Bailer said. “They also provide a good opportunity for germs such as influenza to spread between friends and family members.
The Butler County Health Department recommends good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of spreading the flu at your Super Bowl party this year, which is more severe than most.
“Wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, covering the entire hand, including the fingernails and under any jewelry,” she suggested. Also: “Don’t share cups, bowls, eating utensils, drink, or food with anyone else.”
Party hosts should provide a serving utensil for every dish, especially for snacks like popcorn or nuts so that people may spoon out portions instead of reaching in with their hands. Party hosts should also make sure that there is plenty of soap in the bathroom and should provide disposable hand towels or a roll of paper towels instead of the usual hand towel.
Having disinfectants such as Lysol wipes readily accessible will allow for easy sanitation of door knobs and other commonly-touched surfaces, she noted.
Flu is also spread via droplets in the air, so covering all coughs and sneezes is important. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your shoulder (not your hand), and wash your hands after each cough or sneeze.
“Super Bowl parties are fun and everyone hates to miss out — but if you or a family member is feeling ill, or has symptoms such as fever, cough, sneezing or achy-ness — please stay home and don’t risk infecting others.”