And no more with the hearty handshakes, they suggest

While some researchers urge the public, especially children, to come in more contact with common dirt — and thus presumably boost their immune systems by exercising them against a wide range of threatening thisandthat — other researchers point adults towards the opposite direction. At present, it seems unlikely that these two research camps will soon join hands. Witness a new study by the shaky-about-tolerating-handshakes group:

Banning the Handshake From the Health Care Setting,” Mark Sklansky [pictured here, demonstrating one way to not shake hands], Nikhil Nadkarni, Lynn Ramirez-Avila, Journal of the American Medical Association, epub May 15, 2014. (Thanks to investigator Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, explain:

sklansky“The infectious risk of the handshake has been described in the medical literature since the early 20th century. Multiple studies have demonstrated that the handshake can and does transmit pathogens, and widespread hand hygiene policies have been predicated on the well-established link between hand transmission of pathogens and disease. Bacterial cross-contamination of volunteers through handshaking has been found to be more likely than with “fist bumping” on a surgical ward. Clostridium difficile spores (a common cause of diarrhea in the health care setting) have been demonstrated to be transmitted via the handshake. Moreover, the survival of bacteria transmitted via the handshake has been found to be prolonged in the presence of sputum….

“Banning the handshake from the health care environment may require further study to confirm and better describe the link between handshake-related transmission of pathogens and disease…. Given the tremendous social and economic burden of hospital-acquired infections and antimicrobial resistance, and the variable success of current approaches to hand hygiene in the health care environment, it would be a mistake to dismiss, out of hand, such a promising, intuitive, and affordable ban.”

  • dratman

    If the handshake is to be banned from hospitals, please substitute a minimal-contact physical greeting such as the fist bump mentioned in your article. When a connection of any kind between human individuals is severed without replacement, a little bit of human caring and human comfort vanishes. If losses like that are allowed to pile up, at some weak points in the human weave of connections, threads begin to break, leading to sorrow, anger, and loss of trust.