With the flu season upon us and the specter of Ebola spreading, it is time to think seriously about banning shaking hands.
For years, at this time of year, I have talked on the radio about the folly of shaking hands, how it began as a medieval custom to show that the greeter did not have a weapon concealed under his garments. The custom evolved into the most gracious gesture of greeting someone. A firm handshake is considered to be most sincere. The bare hand is extended. The flesh is pressed. The flesh ground firmly into the hand of the greeter. A possible exchange of body fluids. That hand may go to the mouth and the nose of both greeter and greeted. And voila! Instant infection.
No matter how much hand sanitizer is used nor how many times the hands are washed, the contact is instantaneous. In these days of international air travel it becomes an exponential issue. You don’t know how many hands that hand extended to you has shaken before it is presented in all its bareness for you to squeeze and shake vigorously … and vice versa.
If you must have some body contact, make a quick fist bump or elbow bump. Best move is eye contact and a snappy salute. Just resist the Pavlovian move to shake hands.
Every year at this time all health organizations urge us to get a flu shot. Doctors’ offices and pharmacies make the vaccine easily available. Those organizations, the WHO and the CDC, should be just as diligent in mounting a world-wide education campaign against the social custom of shaking hands. Locally, hospitals and doctors’ offices should lead the campaign. Etiquette mavens be damned!
Most will scoff and laugh and consider this the draconian proposal of a health-nut case. You don’t need an MD after your name to advocate this. It’s just common sense.