In the last fifty years especially, media coverage and education on the danger of pandemics has become widespread. And as a result, society has made excellent progress designing systems and practices to avoid cross-infection in everyday life. Hence, the rise of the tiny bottles of hand sanitizer and protective masks now being commonly used in public places to help avoid getting sick.
In fact, the dangers of handshaking have already been pointed out with a prior discussion on the possibility of banning them in hospitals. Ultimately, the move didn’t go ahead and this is likely because of the reassuring nature of a handshake between doctor and patient.
When someone shakes our hand we feel connected and secure, but once this latest research circulates, people may start to have a change of view. The findings, which were published in the American Journal of Infection Control, have shown that the humble handshake should not be as comforting as we once thought.
Scientists at the Welsh University ran experiments where two people shook hands while wearing sterile gloves. The catch being that one glove was dipped in e-coli, the bacteria most commonly found in the human gut, prior to the contact.
Then they tested the bacterial transfer of not just the handshake gesture, but also the somewhat socially awkward fist bump, as well as the more common greeting of the high five.
Dr. Dave Whitworth made comment to the BBC that although these results could be considered somewhat whimsical, the results could be more serious than people think. His favored mode of greeting remains the handshake, but he explains that, “The ultimate approach to avoiding germs would be if we went back to the Victorian age when on meeting someone you would bow or curtsy from a respectful distance – no germs there!”
(Photo courtesy of Brady Tulk)