Blog | Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beware of dishes!

As of this week, germophobes have one more thing to worry about. A new paper in PLoS One (full text here) describes the results of a series of experiments in which dishes and forks were contaminated with a mouse norovirus and then subjected to the usual cleaning protocols used in restaurants (both machine and hand washing of the items).

The results were disturbing. The various cleaning methods all left residual norovirus on the dinnerware. This is especially important since the infecting dose of norovirus may be as low as 10 viral particles.

So what to do with this information? Here are your options (from most to least risk averse):
1) Never eat in a restaurant again
2) Carry your own dinnerware with you wherever you go
3) Eat only at McDonald's where all dinnerware is disposable (though you could still be at a small risk from the reusable plastic tray your food items are placed on)
4) Eat at all your favorite places and stockpile compazine and immodium
5) Just cast your fate to the wind

Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.