Doctors told to fist bump instead of shaking hands to stop spreading germs

Andy Wells

Hospitals in the UK are being urged to BAN doctors from shaking hands with people over fears that doing so is spreading germs.

Instead, experts recommend using fist bumps as an alternative greeting – something already put in practice in several hospitals in the United States.

‘No handshakes zones’ have been put in place to prevent the spread of so-called superbugs in neonatal intensive care units at two hospitals in Los Angeles, after a successful trial by paediatrics professor Dr Mark Sklansky, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

No handshake zones have been set up at some US hospitals to stop the spread of infection (Rex)

He said: “We are trying to do everything to minimise hospital-acquired infection except for the most obvious and easiest thing to do, in my opinion, which is to stop shaking hands.

“If I am at a computer terminal or using a phone or opening a door, I know my hands are now contaminated, and I need to be careful and I need to wash my hands.”

Now Dr Dave Whitworth, senior lecturer at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, believes the scheme should be rolled out to UK hospitals.

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He said: “The huge numbers of cases of antimicrobial resistant infections and hospital-acquired infections each year means that even a slight reduction in the frequency of transmission could save large numbers of lives.

“I would recommend handshake bans.

“If it does nothing else, it raises awareness of the problems of infectious disease in the healthcare setting.”

Hand washing is regarded as the best solution to stop the risk of infection in hospitals (Rex)

Dr Whitworth conducted a study in 2014 which found a firm handshake transferred a staggering 124 million live bacteria on average – ten times more than a fist bump.

He explained: “We suggested that adoption of fist bumping instead of handshaking could reduce the spread of infectious organisms through communities.”

Despite his recommendations, Dr Whitworth argued that the best solution to stop the spread of infections like MRSA was through hand-washing.

A 2010 study in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found just 40% of healthcare professionals comply with the rules on hand hygiene in hospitals.

Top pic: Rex

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