Should we stop sharing food at restaurants amid coronavirus outbreak? Experts say be cautious

As the new coronavirus outbreak continues, you may be worried about sharing appetizers or splitting a meal at restaurants. 

Companies like Tim Hortons and Starbucks stopped accepting reusable cups in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Both franchises made the announcement last week following concerns about staff touching cups used by customers.

And on the extreme end, a restaurant chain in California is checking customers’ temperatures before allowing them to eat inside their restaurant, according to NBC.

Medical experts are apprehensive as well, recommending people be mindful about sharing food at restaurants to prevent spreading the virus. 

“COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and we know that people who have symptoms can certainly transmit the infection to close contacts,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist with the University of Toronto and the University Health Network.

“If people are sharing food, the virus may contaminate the food that they’re eating or on the fork or knife that they’re sharing. And that’s a perfect way to transmit this to other people.”

As of March 10, Canada has a total of 79 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death in B.C. Many other countries have reported cases, but Italy, Iran and South Korea have been hit hard by the outbreak, which originally began in China.

The virus is spreading quickly and has sickened over 100,000 people worldwide and killing at least 4,000 as of Tuesday.

How does it spread?

The novel coronavirus infects the lungs, throat and nose and can spread in two different ways, says Nancy Walton, a professor and director of the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University.

The first is through droplet transmission from someone who is infected.

One is through being close to someone, and they’re coughing or sneezing on you, and a droplet gets around your eyes, mouth or nose,” Walton told Global News.

“Or droplets get on your hands, and you then touch your eyes, mouth or nose.”

Another way COVID-19 can spread is through surface contact, Walton said.

When someone with the new coronavirus sneezes or coughs, the droplets can fall onto a surrounding surface. When you are sharing food in a restaurant, for example, the droplets can get on the food, plate, cutlery or table. If you touch that surface with a droplet containing the virus and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you can get COVID-19.

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