TRENTON — With the number of flu cases reported in New Jersey headed to record levels, doctors say you have to be careful about contact with others everywhere you go, even a Super Bowl party.

Figures released by the state Department of Health show 7,332 positive cases so far this season, the most being in Bergen County with 972 cases and 883 cases in Monmouth County. For the same period last year, there were only 4,228 reported cases.

A 4-year-old girl from Central Jersey has been the only patient to have died from the flu this season.

Dr. Marc Milano, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, said the 11 RWJ Barnabas Health hospitals have recorded 1,500 emergency room visits for flu like symptoms in the last week alone.

One reason for the increase in flu cases is the winter season that keeps people inside.

"The cold sequesters us in closed spaces together. The more we're indoors the more we're being barraged with viruses and other infectious particles," Milano said.

He urged people to get the flu vaccine because it's effective against at least 30 percent of the strains.

"Safe social distance" is a good rule to observe at a party, according to Milano.

"The influenza virus really only travels 3-6 feet from an individual who's infected. As long as people aren't literally on top of each other, there is also a way to control the spread of infection.

Milano suggested that if you are sick you should stay home to watch the game.

"That's just what a responsible human would do knowing that they would affect the wellness of people," Milano said. Hosts should also not allow someone into the party if they suspect them of being ill.

If you are going to a party and are concerned about coming in contact with others, Milano said to bring your own hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean, cover your cough and think about things you may not not consider.

"No double-dipping in the potato chip bowl. Don't share drinks. Don't share food. All those things are huge factors in preventing spread of illness in general particularly with influenza," Milano said.

Hosts should frequently wipe down tables and counters where food is being served.

Other Super Bowl party tips from RWJ during flu season include:

  • Sanitize your home before having guests
  • Wash your hands before preparing food
  • Keep plenty of hand soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Provide serving utensils for food – even “finger foods”
  • Cancel the party if you’re feeling sick to avoid spreading the virus
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you do not have a tissue, cough into your elbow or shoulder
  • Limit hugging and high-fives
  • Wash your hands before eating and use utensils to serve and eat food
  • Do not share drinks
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Leave tissue boxes around the home