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Slight Spike in Influenza A Has Not Yet Led to Cancellations of Sports Events

13 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Sports Events a Prime Germ Breeding Ground, Particularly in Up-and-Down Temperatures

It’s not just ski resorts and winter weather sports that are suffering from these up-and-down temperatures.

It’s those who are reaching for Kleenez, chicken soup and Comtrex – and who are cancelling out of sports events they were supposed to participate in.

A slight spike in Influenza A is being reported by the CDC, and sports make an ideal breeding ground, particularly in variable weather.

While sudden weather changes can't actually make people sick (for that, a person needs to be exposed to the actual bacteria or viruses), they can weaken the immune system and make individuals more susceptible to those germs.

"This time of year we see a lot of colds, all the different viruses that cause colds , and strep is going around so we're seeing plenty of that," said Dr. Cathleen London in an interview with the New York City ABC affiliate, Eyewitness News 7.

While the industry has not seen widespread cancellations of sports events yet this season (in 2009, swine flu outbreaks had sports event owners pulling the plug on scheduled events, and in 2015, fears of bird flu closed down some activities associated with state fairs), the fear of the traditional flu certainly doesn’t carry the worry that outbreaks of measles could – or even mumps, which did surface in the NHL last winter.

But make no mistake, conditions were ripe for the bug to proliferate. Leading up to the holidays, much of the country was gripped by unseasonably warm temperatures, bringing many people out in droves for 5Ks, football games and more.

Many people, scientists point out, equal many germs. Throw in a lot of opportunities for those germs to move from person to person – hugs, handshakes, beers passing from hand to hand – and you have the perfect cocktail for a case of the flu down the road.

Just in time for all those New Year’s resolution prospects to head to the gym. In fact, notes Men’s Fitness, the gym is a petri dish, seething with microbes.

Bacteria and viruses play hopscotch on barbells, dumbbells and weight plates. With more business in fitness facilities this time of year, it’s going to be impossible to avoid those germs, particularly since many people resist getting flu shots.

"Our studies show that a person in a room with a cold coats 30 percent of the room's surfaces with viruses," says Chuck Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. "You literally pick up colds on your fingers." The most effective germ spreaders? Bicycle and stairclimber grips.

And since this is the season for indoor sports – think CrossFit, wrestling, racquetball and (hello, March Madness!) basketball – it’s a problem that will stay around for some time to come.

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