Expert reveals whether it's safe to go back to shaking hands: 'Hands are gross'

hand shaking
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As inklings of rare good news on the COVID front trickle in, many are already thinking about what may or may not change when it comes to previously common habits like shaking hands.

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Colin Furness, infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, believes all is not lost: “Hand-to-hand contact isn’t likely to be a major risk [for COVID transmission].”

However, he added that “coming in close to someone long enough to shake their hand is an issue, if the people involved aren’t wearing high-quality masks that are properly fitted.”

Furness states that “hands are gross" with or without a pandemic.

"Touch may not matter so much for COVID, but it almost certainly does for other serious viruses. The other reason is bacterial contamination. Most bacteria are harmless or beneficial. Our bodies are covered in bacteria, inside and out. But some types, associated with the ‘two Fs’ (food and feces) are very harmful. Between kitchens and bathrooms, our hands can get dangerously dirty," he explained.

Though by now you’d think extra hand washing had become second nature to most, according to Furness’ recent study, it hasn’t.

As the Toronto Star reported, after conducting extensive research on hand-hygiene behaviour of hospital patients, staff, and visitors, Furness found that “all three groups had the same rate of hand washing in bathrooms -- 30%. That’s low.”

So for now, keep using those hand sanitizers.

“Handshaking is a deeply embedded social ritual,” Furness says, “but of course it’s not universal. I admire the Asian slight bow, for example. A lesser change, like knuckle bumping, would be great too."

He suggested: "Maybe people who are younger and cooler than me can invent alternatives.”

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