Study shows birthday cake could be playground for flu virus, bacteria

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Cake. It's sweet and delicious, and part of almost any celebration, especially birthdays.

But how quickly that celebration could sour if your guests found out what you're really serving. Viruses! Bacteria! Maybe even the cold and flu!

On cake? Well not usually, but there is a way viruses, like the flu, can make the jump to your birthday party. "It's as simple as blowing out the candles," Dr. Bert Eichold of the Mobile County Health Department said.

"Especially during flu season, you light the candles on the cake and everybody sings happy birthday, and then the one individual who is celebrating his birthday blows on the cake and blows the candles out," he said.

Dr. Eichold's not the first to sound the alarm. Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council came out with guidelines this week for agencies who work with children: No candles on birthday cakes.

Consider a recent study at Clemson University that found 200 bacteria on a birthday cake before the candles. And after? "A study at Clemson University looked at it," Dr. Eichold said, "and actually found out 3,000 bacteria were found on the cake after the child blows the candles out."

Dr. Eichold isn't saying stop having birthday cakes and birthday candles and birthday parties.

That's part of growing up. But during flu season, you might want to keep in mind a few alternative to blowing on that birthday cake.

"Why not have your birthday candles on a cupcake," suggested Eichold, "or just have a candle sitting down, sing happy birthday, blow out the candle and eat the food!"

Because the birthday girl should be getting the gifts, not giving them.

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