Don’t Shake Hands!

When meeting someone, it is a near universal custom to shake hands.  It can be seen as offensive should a person hold their hand out for a greeting and be turned down, yet we encourage this rejection.  Therefore, in order to both promote our strategy of limited hand contact without souring the client/patient/co-worker relationship, we are marketing a DO NO SHAKE HANDS button to be worn on lab coats in health care and medical research facilities.   Join us in our fight against infectious disease, wear a pin and you’ll have the perfect explanation for why you cannot shake someone’s hand!

If you want to stay healthy, try to stay away from infected individuals.  Of course, that is not always possible, especially if one works at a hospital or research lab.  One must therefore take steps in order to avoid preventable exposure to communicable infectious disease.  The recent media coverage of the H1N1 outbreak has raised awareness of the need for prevention of the spread of virus and it would be a great first step if people did not shake hands, especially within a health care environment.

Scientific evidence has shown that hand contact or self-inoculation is a very effective method of spreading the Rhinovirus, the cause of 30% of common colds1.  It is estimated that hand to hand contact is effective in transmitting virus 70-80% of the time.  Infected hosts spread virus to a healthy person through one time hand contact 40% of the time, 90% with repeated contact, but only 2% of infected hosts expelled virus through a cough or sneeze.2  You are therefore more likely to catch a cold from a handshake than by being in contact with people who cough or sneeze.  When healthy people were exposed to virus on their hands, roughly 40% became infected after touching their nasal mucosa.2  Hand to nose contact is an extremely natural and frequent human behavior.  Let’s prevent ourselves, close ones and co-workers from transmitting virus though hand to hand contact.

1. Annals of internal medicine 88:463-467, 1978.
2. New England Journal of Medicine, 288:1361-1364, 1973.

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