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New sports teams in cities linked to up to 25% more flu deaths, study says

New pro sports teams bring more than a rooting interest to American cities — they also sparked a spike in flu deaths, according to a new study.

Flu mortality jumped as much as nearly 25% in cities that picked up new sports franchises in baseball, basketball, football or hockey, economists at the West Virginia University found.

“It’s important for sports fans to realize that there is some additional risk that they’re taking, now that we’re all acutely aware of airborne virus transmission or respiratory virus transmission…when they decide to go to a sporting event,” Brad Humphreys, a WVU economics professor and co-author of the study published in the journal Sports Economic Review, told The Post.

Using data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers analyzed weekly flu deaths in 122 U.S. cities from 1962 to 2016.

New National Hockey League teams drove the largest spike in influenza mortality during the 54-year period, causing a 24.6% on average jump in weekly flu deaths per 100,000 people, or roughly 20 flu deaths per year for each city, the researchers found.

The NHL season overlaps almost entirely with the flu season, the games are played indoors, and teams are more likely to be based in colder cities, study co-author Jane Ruseski noted.

National Football League teams resulted in a 17% average increase in flu deaths, or 13 deaths annually.

National Basketball Association teams resulted in a city’s flu mortality rate jumping by 4.7%, or roughly 3.4 additional deaths.

Major League Baseball, which typically plays in outdoor arenas had the smallest hit on flu deaths, with about 3 additional mortalities annually.

“We don’t want to conclude that people shouldn’t go to sporting events or professional sports teams in cities because it does provide a lot of entertainment, but just be aware that this is a possibility,” Ruseski said.

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