You may have to think twice the next time you shake hands with someone. A new study has revealed that ditching the handshake for the fist bump can significantly prevent the spread of illness.
Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales used two sterile gloves and coated one in a film of non-pathogenic E. coli. Bacteria. They then tested how much of the bacteria from the infected glove transferred over to the clean glove while participants greeted each other using handshakes, high-fives or fist bumps.
The findings, published in the August edition of the American Journal of Infection Control, showed that a handshake transfers 10 times as much bacteria as fist bumping and twice as much as a high-five.
Joseph Katabarwa, Head of Environmental Health and Food Safety at the Ministry of Health, says the study is very important.
“Even today, I had a meeting with local leaders where we were discussing the effects of handshakes,” Katabarwa said on Wednesday.
The government has a national hygiene and sanitation promotion strategy where it seeks to promote hand washing and use of hand sanitisers. Katabarwa said they are also sensitising people about the hazards of handshakes and the need to prevent it.
Sara Mela, a PhD student at Aberystwyth University and first author on the study, said they are not discouraging people from shaking hands, but are rather promoting safer ways of greeting.
“We do not want to be held responsible for the death of the handshake,” said Mela, adding that it is safer to fist bump.
Although Mela said the research should be taken with a grain of salt, she noted that there are serious applications for it, especially when considering health care facilities.
“It would make a difference in high risk areas like hospitals where there are more germs and more people who are susceptible to germs,” Mela said.
She added that viruses like flu can easily be transmitted through the handshake, and that fist bumping can prevent the spread of many outbreaks.
An opinion piece, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June called for the banning of handshakes. The authors argued that banning handshakes would help improve hygiene and reduce on hospital acquired infections.
Another study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection in December found that fist bumping in the health care setting reduced the transmission of disease between hospital providers because it lowered contact time and the total exposed area.
Katabarwa said MoH would encourage health care practitioners to use the fist bump instead of the handshake.
“We want the health care facilities to be exemplary in this,” Katabarwa said.
WHAT THEY SAID
Eric Mico, businessman
Handshaking is deeply rooted in the Rwandan culture. It will be difficult to do away with it, the government instead should put in place handwashing points in public areas so that people can easily wash their hands after greeting.
Francis Tuyishime, student
If Rwandans are to quit handshaking, there has to be massive sensitisation, as it’s something they traditionally value much.
Obedy Ntabara, student
That, combined with the current Ebola scare on the continent, I think it’s time people considered giving up handshaking for health’s sake.