Are restaurants ground zero for the flu?

Dirty menus and sick servers are a concern during this year's epidemic.

By Kim Peterson Jan 31, 2013 2:37PM
Hoping to avoid the miserable flu bug going around this year? Try cooking at home.

Restaurants are no strangers to viruses and germs. And while our immune systems can normally stand up to the nasties lurking in restaurants and other public places, the severity of this year's flu outbreak -- and the awful norovirus strain going around -- is making some people think twice about exposure.
There are two reasons restaurants are unusually flu-friendly: The menus and the servers.

Let's start with the menus, which Prevention Magazine ranks No. 1 on its list of seven germy public places to avoid. "Have you ever seen anyone wash off a menu?" the magazine asks. Uh, no.Image: Family at diner ( IT Stock Free/SuperStock)

Cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces, Prevention reports. Think about how many unwashed hands and sneeze droplets touch a menu in that time. Don't let your menu touch your plate, and wash your hands after you're done with it, the magazine adds.

The next culprit may be your friendly server, who probably doesn't get any paid sick time off. Most restaurants are not required to pay for sick days, Mother Jones magazine reports. As a result, many servers continue working even when they are ill.

Restaurants are in no hurry to change that, either. Restaurant trade associations have been fighting the idea of paid sick leave for years, saying most businesses can't afford the cost.

So add "fewer flu bugs" to the long list of reasons cooking at home is a better idea than going out. It's not as fun, but it could make life a whole lot easier until this year's flu epidemic runs its course.

More on moneyNOW

Jan 31, 2013 3:44PM
I avoid eating out between December and April for this very reason. Besides, cooking a hot meal is a good way to warm up the house.

200 percent dead on


you should avoid eating out all the time not to mention the expense of eating out.


now if I can only convince my girl friend -- she is not afraid of germs and will even eat something that fell on the table at the restaurant. She has had a cold/flu for over a month now and wonders when she is going to get over it.

Jan 31, 2013 7:15PM
All restaurants should use paper place mats.  It is just inexcusable to sit silverware on a unprotected table top, even if it has been supposedly cleaned.  Most of the cleaning solutions and especially the wipers used, simply spread the germs from one table to the other.  The restaurant depicted in this video seems to more aware and  conscientious of the possibility of contamination that most but they still should be using paper place mats.  They add between 1 and 2 cents per person - add it to the cost of the meal if necessary.
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