NPR: Handshake-Free Zones to Decrease Spreading Germs

NPR recently detailed a study to reduce germs by implementing a handshake-free zone at a neonatal intensive care unit.

Here’s the link: Handshake-Free Zones Target Spread of Germs

An excerpt:

In a survey of staff and family members about the experience, Sklansky and his colleagues found that establishing handshake-free zones does reduce the frequency of handshakes. And most health care workers support the idea.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The survey didn’t determine whether avoiding handshakes actually reduced the rate of infections, but Sklansky hopes to answer that question in a future study.

The formal experiment is now over, but the signs in the NICUs remain. And doctors and nurses still discourage handshakes.

It’s is an effective way to decrease the spread of germs, says Maureen Shawn Kennedy, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing…

Although there is no data to prove that reducing handshakes limits hospital infections, one study showed that bumping fists was more hygienic than shaking hands.

However, some infectious disease specialists believe health care workers don’t need to stop shaking hands. They just need to scrub better.

“The problem isn’t the handshake: It’s the hand-shaker,” says Herbert L. Fred, a Houston physician and associate editor of the Texas Heart Institute Journal.

In a 2015 editorial he urged doctors to ensure their hands are clean before touching patients. After all, he wrote, “If we ban the handshake, we might as well ban the physical examination. Both practices can spread germs,” — if you don’t wash your hands properly.

My take: The bigger message of this article is that hand hygiene needs to be improved to decrease the spread of infections.  I doubt stopping handshakes will be particularly helpful.

Related blog posts:

Musee d’Orsay


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