H1N1 virus could impact businesses

RALEIGH The H1N1 virus cannot spread through food, but restaurants may be some of the more vulnerable to a drop in business if there's a spike in the virus.

Restaurant owner Troy Hogue said business has thinned at Holy Smokes Texas Bar-B-Q over the last year. On top of a recession, an extra hit from the flu virus could have people staying home and away from public hangouts.

"We obviously don't need another hit on us," Hogue said. "We need people to come and eat out and feel comfortable eating out."

Holy Smokes started with 15 employees three years ago, but it is now down to eight.

Hogue said that this flu season his workers are taking extra steps to prevent the spread of germs and he is more lenient with sick time.

"If somebody is legitimately sick, if they are running a fever, if they are coughing, sore throat, I don't want them to come in," he said.

Wake County is also trying to assure people. They said the first 165 doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be available in mid-October and then 60,000 new shots would be ready every week after that.

"We should have enough vaccine to cover the populations," Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford said.

But some wonder if people will rush out to get shots. Health officials said it depends on the vaccine's supply and demand, which could spike if the flu strikes fast.

"It's hard to guesstimate, because that's what it would be, a guess, as to how the community is going to respond," Ledford said.

The Federal Centers for Disease Control said restaurants are no more of a risk for catching the flu than other public places.

Flu is typically transmitted through the air, or from hand to hand, not through food.

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